News and Views: May 2014
Random comments about playing and developing games, developing game engines and other custom software,
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|5.29.14 Here's a FaceGen character you saw before, but now he's in DAZ Studio with a body and clothing. His hair is custom made using Look At My Hair. The background is a screen shot from Google SketchUp. This image, although it's neither perfect nor final, shows what you can do with free or low-cost software and some practice.|
|5.28.14 I've been learning DAZ 3D -- if you make enough mistakes you learn quite a bit. How do you like my cops for Picture Perfect Murder? The poses are some that I did myself with DAZ studio. Most of the built-in poses strike me as a little off-beat. Maybe my poses would strike other people as off-beat, who knows? When we have our Kickstarter campaign, we could replace one of the cops with you.|
|5.27.14 Here the housemaid at the B&B in our game, A Picture Perfect Murder. The lights are on, but nobody's home, or maybe she's just in shock from seeing the body. This is another character I made using Facegen. You can download the software for free, although you have to buy the exporter in order to get rid of a big "SI" on the forehead. FaceGen has maybe 50 built-in facial texture maps, and you can create a texture map of your own from photos of your friends or relatives. During our Kickstarter campaign, you'll have the opportunity to become a character in our game. We'll use your photo to create a FaceGen model of your head and then put your own skin texture on it. We've been practicing.|
|5.26.14 Note to game developers everywhere: Beautiful graphics will not make up for obscure or trivial adventures. Lots of cut scenes will not make up for simple-minded mini-games. And if you're going to include additional mini-games, make them available after the game is over!|
|5.23.14 Here's a hint for generating game characters: asymmetrical faces are less attractive than symmetrical faces. Here's a character who is unattractive not because he's old and grumpy, but because the sides of his face don't match.|
|5.22.14 Here's another FaceGen character I made. This guy looks like a real slacker. Of course, if enough people buy characters during the Kickstarter campaign, we probably won't have him in the game. It doesn't seem to me to be very nice to make slackers out of people who have enough interest in our game to buy a character!|
|5.21.14 A couple days ago I gave you a link to FaceGen. Here's one of my better efforts. FaceGen has a few haircuts that you can put on the faces, although I haven't figured out how to export them along with the face (I think maybe it's not possible.) Once you have the face in Daz Studio, you can put hair on it using either a default DAZ hairdo, a purchased hairdo, or a plug-in like Look At My Hair. Purchased hairdos cost about the same each as getting your hair done at a barber shop or hair salon. Look At My Hair can be used for as many characters as you like, but you have to learn to use it. And because there are hundreds of developers, the LAMH hair is sometimes incompatible with some other clothing item or prop. So here's my solution: build games where all the characters are bald.|
Recently I played a game that I really can't recommend, even though the graphics are gorgeous. Many hidden-object/adventure games have similar plots, but this one was, shall we say, more similar than most to the Awakening series from Boom Zap (which I do highly recommend). In the not-recommended game, we found 6 serious bugs, and we weren't even testing the software (which we do professionally). (When I say "we," I mean that when I start ranting, Madison comes to see what I'm doing wrong. When he starts ranting, it's almost always a bug.) Worst of all, quite a few of the mini-puzzles in the game go way beyond diabolically difficult and hit "tedious." Apparently you can only win them by chance after hours of play. I ended up skipping several of them. Madison skipped one! He thinks that one might have a bug that makes it unwinnable.
So here's a bit of advice to game developers everywhere: test your software before you release it. In fact, have a naive user (one who wasn't part of the game-development team) test it. There's really no profit in a game that convinces me never to buy your brand again.
|5.19.14 Customers seem to like the software I design, probably because I'm pretty short-tempered about badly designed software. I tell the programmers on my teams, "I don't care whether the software works, as long as it isn't annoying! Games where every puzzle is so obscure that I need a hint, where the hints are completely useless, or where the hints include detailed explanations of every step are all annoying. When a single game does all three, it's annoying!|
|5.16.14 Madison was searching for stock night sounds for A Picture Perfect Murder™. I was playing some game and said, "Come listen! This game has got a great cricket sound." He came out to hear it, and it turned out to be a real cricket on the back patio. But it definitely was a great cricket sound!|
|5.15.14 Here's a tip on green-screening: save your graphics as .bmp or .png files whenever possible. Jpg files blend the
colors at any boundary, so when you try to green screen onto another background, the edges are messy and a real pain to clean up. After you do the green screening, you can save as a .jpg or .png file if you want to get a final product with a smaller file size. The stop sign on the left was saved as a .jpg; the one on the right was saved as a .bmp. I used Ducks' Spectrum Works Studio, and I did one step green screening--worked great for the bmp, not so much for the jpg. (More steps would have improved the .jpg.)|
All that said, green screening rarely seems to be as easy as all the YouTube videos say it is. And while I'm on the topic of YouTube, why do some developers of software tools omit any sort of decent help or instructions? Thank God for 12-year-old boys and YouTube! Sometimes that is the only good help I can find about how to use a piece of software.
|5.14.14 Here are a couple of cats who auditioned for parts in "A Picture Perfect Murder." The cat on the right not only came with his own library of classic murder mysteries, but also had previous experience in video. We at Ducks were saddened by his death a few months ago, more evidence that only the good die young.|
|5.13.14 1% of the gross national product was spent to develop the Internet, and now it's mostly used as a conduit for trading meatloaf recipes and pictures of cats. Madison Link, my game-development partner, often says that "everything's cuter with kittens," so I spent some time working a cat into A Picture Perfect Murder™. This raised questions: Should the cat just be there, like in the background? Or should the cat have an active role in helping to solve the murder? My current cat is 13, and she doesn't take an active role in anything!|