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News and Views: June and July 2014

Random comments about playing and developing games, developing game engines and other custom software,
running a small business in retirement, and life.

Follow our progress on the game here. Give us your feedback and suggestions.


Just discovered your blog. I can't wait for this to come out also.

Gary Kreisberg

am stuck in game. Is there a walkthrough, am stuck in one spot, in murdered guy's room, hint says to interact with the black thing but nothing happens


@ Gary:

Sorry, there's no walk-through at this moment. If you click on the black thing again, the text that pops up gives you a clue about what you need to do next. If you want more of a hint, I could email it to you, but I'd rather not have spoilers on our front page. :).

M Wild

The reason Gary Kreisberg is stuck is because the game has a glitch and should be tested and corrected before distribution. Very primitive and slow - not professional at all.


@ M Wild
We’re sorry you’re having trouble with the speed of the game. The game was thoroughly tested by us and by non-developers before release, and we fixed every bug reported. If you can tell us exactly what glitch you have found, we’ll fix that one, too. In the case of Gary’s question, it isn’t a glitch, it’s just a hard problem in the game. Thanks for writing.

M Wild

So at least give a hint Regina, if more than one person is getting the same problem, perhaps you should let us know what to do. I checked with Amazon and they ran into the same problem. The cat's paw points to the black box and you can click everywhere, pull all the inventory and nothing happens. There are no clues, no changes to the cursor, no help at all. It's not a professional game, very amateurishly designed. It is extremely slow too. I would not recommend it.


@ M Wild
Sorry for the delay--I'm on vacation with not much internet. Spoiler alert--After the murder, when you click on the black box in the victim's room, you get a message that says something like, "I wonder who could tell me where the key is?" I forget the exact wording. This tells you 1. It's locked, and 2. You need a key. It implies that 3. You need to talk to somebody. Go back up to the lobby and talk to either of the maintenance guys. They will say -- further spoiler alert -- to look in the garden room.

M Wild

Sorry Regina, There was no message & I clicked on every person and nobody talks. I started a new game and the same thing happened at the same spot. I usually don't give up, but I decided it's not worth any more of my time, so I'm giving up. I hope Gary has more luck. Thanks for trying to help.

7.10.14 if you have no musical talent but you've always wanted to play professional jazz, now's your chance! We've added a bass player and a drummer to the game. If you choose to be one of these characters, you'll be part of Todd Hunter's trio, and you'll have genuine musician dialog to say, as written by Todd's manager. She claims that musicians avoid all responsibility and say things like, "Sorry, we don't get paid for that." As the game player, you'll have to figure out how to wring information out of Todd and his band that might help you solve the murder.

7.09.14 I was going to post an update about our game engine today, but something really cool happened instead, so I'm going to write about that!

We've cut a deal with famous jazz musician Todd Hunter about composing and performing our game's music in a collaborative effort to support both our campaign and his Indiegogo campaign for "Eat, Drink, Play." As part of this Todd will be appearing as himself in our game. You, as a player, will be able to question Todd and his band about the murder.

Among his many credentials, Todd has played alongside a dozen other top jazz musicians of the modern era. He helped open the House of Blues in Hollywood and appeared on the David Letterman show with the Brian Setzer Orchestra, he's traveled extensively with Paul Taylor, and currently, he's performing across the globe with the legendary Dionne Warwick.

We're truly thrilled to have a musician of Todd's caliber involved in our game. This will really add to the ambiance and to your gaming experience. However, it's still important that you donate to our Kickstarter campaign right away!
Jazz pianist Todd Hunter.

7.08.14 We had a great first day on the Kickstarter campaign for our game, "A Picture Perfect Murder." After 21 hours, we're just over 1/4 funded for "A Picture Perfect Murder." We need to keep the momentum going, so don't stop now! Share the link, tell all your friends, and if you can donate, please do. If you already did, thanks! Here's the billiards room, another example of why we need our intern working full time - our basic funding goal.
Billiards room built in Sketchup and rendered with Podium Studio.

7.08.14 If you like jazz, check out this indiegogo campaign. No, the name is not a coincidence; Todd is my nephew. It is a coincidence, though, that we are both running crowd funding campaigns that started on the same day. Stranger things have happened. Todd is a *terrific* pianist; he's Dionne Warwick's regular keyboardist and plays all kinds of stuff--jazz, pop, church music, etc. I especially like the reward of a personal recording of "Happy Birthday." : )Todd Hunter at the piano.
Todd Hunter's CD Project: Eat, Drink, Play

6.26.14 We hope and plan to start our Kickstarter campaign on July 7, so mark your calendars! I've been working like crazy on a video, which is the main reason I haven't posted anything here lately.

We were filming Madison walking up and down the street to use for about 3 seconds' worth of video. He'd walk along, waving his arms and talking to himself, and we'd follow in the car. Then we'd stop and talk to him out the window, and he'd take off again. When (after at least half an hour of this), he finally got in the car, a very worried lady in the parking lot said to us, "Is everything all right?" We said things were fine and drove away. We decided later that she thought Madison was an escaped demented person that we were trying to catch!

6.20.14 The characters I've been showing you have been placed against screen shots of the B&B model. These two images show you the difference between the basic model, made using Sketchup 8 (which is free, by the way) and the render. The model, on the left, has no subtlety. It's a mockup, and it looks like it. The render, on the right, was made by our intern Aaron (who is the only one of us who understands it) using Podium. Podium isn't free. Or cheap. We tried some free and cheap ones, but this is better. This is the kind of image you'll see in our game, "A Picture Perfect Murder." Aaron is still learning, but still you can see subtle shading and the shadow cast by the chandelier on the left wall. If you search around on the web, you can find renders of Sketchup models that absolutely look like photographs.
B&B hallway in Sketchup model.The same image rendered using Podium.

6.19.14 Here's another B&B guest in Picture Perfect Murder. He's looking very casual as he waits to be questioned. What do you suppose he does for a living? Because those designer jeans and the vest must have cost $300! Have you ever looked around in America? With the exception of some church services and business meetings, at least half the people in any group will be wearing jeans. In this century at least, our national costume is jeans and a tee shirt. I do need to figure out how to put pockets on the jeans.Game character in designer jeans.

6.17.14 Sometimes when you put clothing onto your character, either skin or some underlying garment pokes through. On the left, the socks are poking through the jeans in three places. With enough effort, either in DAZ Studio or Paint, you can usually fix it by hand. Or you can buy any of several poke-fixing packages. I use Poke-Away! ($7.95), which is cheap, easy, and pretty effective. The fix took just a few minutes and got rid of the two biggest and most obvious pokes and reduced the third one (right). Fixing poke-through in jeans.

6.16.14 Here's a character couple that I've made for "A Picture Perfect Murder." They're staying at the bed and breakfast, but they weren't planning on being part of a murder investigation. His shirt, both pairs of pants, and the belt are from the Morphing Business suit. I created the blue jeans texture by scanning in a real pair of jeans and applying them to the MBS pants. Modifying a texture seems to me to be the easiest way to create a new piece of clothing from something I've got. The only tricky part is getting the texture map the right size, so that it paints cleanly onto the clothing item and looks realistic.Two characters illustrating the use of purchased clothing models.

6.13.14 When you want something done right, do it yourself. The left image shows the eye highlights put in by DAZ Studio. Unlike the highlights in the eyes of real people, they aren't crisp, and they don't match. The highlights on the right are ones that I put in myself using Paint, after rendering the eyes with a matte lighting model. When you do this, remember that the highlights must also match between characters. Two characters sitting side by side should have almost identical highlights. Characters facing in different directions should have eyes that reflect the light falling on their faces. One easy way to tell that a photographed has been Photoshopped is to look carefully at the eyes: markedly different highlights are a good sign that the photo has been altered in some way. (Of course, similar highlights don't prove the photo is genuine. No system is perfect.) Contrasting eye highlights made using DAZ Studio and Paint.

6.11.14 Here's an effort to create a character from a real person. I used FaceGen for the basic shape and coloring and then exported to DAZ Studio for the body, clothing, and hair. The only thing I don't like about FaceGen is that everything is connected to everything, so if you make a small adjustment to improve one part of the face, it's likely to throw another part off. (I'm currently learning how to use the DAZ D-former; maybe that will allow specific small changes.) For example, I couldn't see through the real beard, so I had to guess about the position of the point of the real chin. Having the modeled chin in the wrong position threw off the shape of the entire face. Consequently I had to create about half a dozen models before I got one that was lifelike. I had a better-looking beard (using Look At My Hair), but I ran into what appear to be software incompatibilities and ended up using Genesis Beard from DAZ. Let me know your thoughts on the goodness of the match. Game character made from photograph.

6.09.14 Here's the manager for the bed & breakfast in our game, A Picture Perfect Murder. His hair is fine from some angles, and then too bright from other angles. In this render, for example, his hair is brightly lit on his right, even though his face is in shadow on that side. From what I read, hair is especially difficult to draw and render so that it looks natural. I'm getting better at it, but a hairdo still takes me a couple of hours. This is probably why buying a hairdo from Daz 3D costs about as much as getting your hair done at a salon.

If you've always wanted to manage a bed & breakfast, stayed tuned for our Kickstarter campaign; this character is one of the ones that can be replaced with you.
B&B manager game character.

6.06.14 I'm especially proud of the Little Old Lady, because I did her hair all by myself. (Don't anybody say, "Yeah, and it looks like it!") I used Look At My Hair ($49.95) for that, and FaceGen and DAZ 3D (both free) for the face and body. The cookies and tray are mocked up using primitives in DAZ. Overall I think it's probably more cost effective to buy props like this than to make them, although see the comment below about prop compatibility. Nevertheless, there'll come a time when you want a prop that isn't available, so it's good to at least know that you can make things from scratch.Little old lady game character.

6.05.14 Our game, A Picture Perfect Murder, gets more real every day. The picture on the left shows half of the Forensics Team. Note that she's wearing shoes. The picture on the right shows her with the Victim and the Detective. Note that her shoes have disappeared. After some experimentation, I discovered that not all of the clothes and props that you get from DAZ Studio are compatible with all the other clothes and props. In this particular case, the Detective's hair was made using Look At My Hair, which causes the particular set of shoes I was using on the Forensics Gal to vanish from the scene. There appear to be hundreds of developers for DAZ clothing and props, so it's not surprising that not all of the products are compatible. Knowing what's happening is half the battle in finding products that work together, and now you know. By the way, if you want us to replace a Forensics Team member or the Detective with your image, stay tuned for our Kickstarter campaign.
Game character with shoes.Game character with no shoes.

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June and July 2014
May 2014


All Storm DragonTM games are tested for use by red/green color-blind players.

Our beta-testers play the game both with and without sound. Hearing-impaired players can enjoy the game in its entirety.