Jan-Mar 1997
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April-June 2002 (oldest-to-newest)

2 Apr 2002 - Tiger's safe...for now

The golf camp was lots of fun even if we didn't improve our games all that much. It was hot as heck in Sonoma (for March at least) and we both got sun burned despite applying loads of sunscreen. It was in the 80s (that's around 30 C for you metric people) and stayed that way well past 3pm, making our free play time after lessons that much more difficult. We're heading out this weekend to test our new skillz. Just so you know, I typically shoot around twice par (~140) while Gwen does a bit better.

Imagine my delight when I returned home to read this article about the new Toe Jam & Earl game for X-Box. I held my breath for a day that it wasn't a hoax - it was posted on April 1st after all. Now that it seems genuine I'm jumping for joy. It's a bit annoying how the article has quotes from Sega acting like they're responsible for the game. Check this one out:

"With its inventive plot, distinctive characters and clever humor, 'ToeJam & Earl III' reiterates SEGA's commitment to publishing daring, genre-bending games."

Funny how they tout it as daring and genre-bending when it was Sega that forced the developers to change TJ&E 2 into a platform game. Of course there's no mention of the fine folks at Toe Jam & Earl Productions . Greg and Mark created the characters and should be given full credit for this original and wacky game.

9 Apr 2002 - Ah, that's much better!

My wife and I played our first round of golf after our lessons the previous weekend. I improved quite a bit, going from 134 & 137 the previous two rounds to 114 this time. It feels good to hit the ball straight more often. I can't wait to get out there again!

I finally booted up the second game I bought with my X-Box at launch, Munch's Oddysee. The graphics are very impressive and I like the voice acting thusfar. I never played the first two games so this is all new to me.

I also continue to play Rez from time to time. I'm still unlocking things as I get better scores. Very cool game.

15 Apr 2002 - Tax day

I usually procrastinate when it comes to doing taxes, but this year we got them done early. In fact we already received our refund a few weeks ago. We got a good-sized refund, but really that's only partially making up for the humongous amount we paid last year. Stupid AMT.

Played a bit more of Munch - what a frustrating game. At first I was trying to get a perfect score. You know, save all the Fuzzles and "retire" all the bad guys. After reloading my save game about fifteen billion times I gave up on the second one and just resolved to save all the Fuzzles. Plus, some of the enemies are creatures that resemble dogs. Being a pet owner I can't bring myself to killing them. Granted they do attack you, but the yelps they give out when hit are a bit too real for my tastes.

The first part of my black belt test was moved up to this Friday. Then it finishes the following weekend on the 26th and 27th. I have a ton of things I've been keeping on hold until after the test. It will be good to finally get to them.

Whew, the news page is getting pretty full! Guess I need to write the script to create archive pages pretty soon.

19 Apr 2002 - Getting that programming urge

Man it's been a while since I've done any programming. I have so many things I want to do too. First I want to finish off some stuff in Chomp. I kind of left it in a broken state so I hope it's not too difficult to resurrect. After that I think I'll look into porting Decaying Orbit to NUON, more for curiosity than anything else. I just want to see how difficult it would be and how the performance compares. Then it's back to my original game with the previously planned engine overhaul. Ah it will be nice to have time again. Just 9 more days!

Speaking of which, my test starts tonight, continues next Friday, and finishes up that Saturday. If you were here a couple years ago when I went through my first degree test you might recognize the photo. That's the brick I broke at the test (the blue lines are the 1- and 2-inch marks). This time around I'll be breaking two of those. I've done as many as three at once, but they've all been half as wide and thus much easier. Still I'm not too concerned.

23 Apr 2002 - Yak gaming goodness

Former VML employee and Tempest 2000/3000 creator Jeff Minter is back. Yak's been working on games for the Pocket PC platform and has Deflex and Hover Bovver available. He also has versions available for the PC (one of the nice side effects of developing on a PPC emulator). I tried the Deflex demo and will surely pay for the full version of both games soon. Gotta love those pick-up-and-play games.

Head on over to Llamasoft to check it out.

25 Apr 2002 - Decaying Orbit info up

I finally put together the Decaying Orbit page. Click on over to get some history about the game that I'm personally most proud of. Some of you that have been coming here for a while will know most of it already, but hopefully it's still interesting.

As I've mentioned in the past I am curious to find out how easy it would be to port the game over to NUON. The SDK includes a pretty capable sprite library so it should be possible. The graphics will need conversion to 16-bit, but that's a good thing since on the Yaroze they were purely 4-bit sprites. Naturally all the Yaroze library calls will need to be replaced, too. Ideally I would rewrite the planet rendering code to be more procedural rather than being limited to 16 distinct frames of animation.

29 Apr 2002 - Sore, but happy

The black belt test went well this weekend. I'm confident that I passed, but won't know for sure until they give me my scores. It's nice to have that behind me and frees up a lot of evening and weekend time to work on other things. Yay!

I bought a sealed copy of Frequency for PS2 off of eBay for $20. The game is worth $40 or more, but at $20 it's a steal! It pays to have patience when one is buying games. I will never pay more than $40 for a game again. I always have a back log of games to play so whenever I get the urge to buy a new one I remind myself to play the ones I have. It takes some incredible willpower let me tell you!

Anyway, back to Frequency. I love music games and this one is fantastic. There's a great variety of music. It's not just techno/dance like DDR and Bust a Groove, nor is it all pop/rock like Um Jammer Lammy. I burned through the "Easy" mode in a couple hours yesterday. I'm sure "Normal" and "Expert" will take a lot longer given that there are more songs and that the game gets a lot more difficult.

3 May 2002 - Hanging my gamer head in shame

Have I met my match? While the easy mode in Frequency was rather simple, the normal mode has me pretty stuck. My goodness it's hard. And I haven't even tried the expert mode yet! I need to complete one more song to open up the next stage, but for the life of me I can't do it. I'll keep trying, but boy is it discouraging.

Got another $20 eBay game, this time Spy Hunter for PS2. I haven't tried it yet, but I enjoyed the demo I played a while back. In fact it's one of the few demos that actually prompted me to get the full game.

3 May 2002 - Archive pages live

This post serves two purposes. First, I put in the code to generate the archive pages. There's bound to be problems, but at least now the main page isn't so long. Secondly I wanted to test out the ability to have two news updates on the same day. Hopefully This one does overwrite the previous one. [UPDATE: Yay!]

4 May 2002 - All the old favorites are here

I got all the news transfered from the old Insider to the new site. You can catch up on the past five years here. The images and links are probably broken - I'll go through and fix them over time.

9 May 2002 - Ballistic battles

One of the games that my wife and I play quite frequently is Ballistic for NUON. We enjoyed it for quite a while, but lost it up when I gave up my Extiva (Dec 19, last paragraph). I got a Toshiba SD-2300 as a replacement, but that one came with The Next Tetris instead. I finally broke down and bought a used copy of Ballistic off of eBay. So now my wife and I have frequent versus battles (she's darn at it good too).

I got a little further in Frequency. It still has a monster learning curve. Much too steep if you ask me, but what do I know. I'm just a 29-year-old who's gaming skillz are probably on the decline :)

12 May 2002 - Behind the scenes

You can see on the left I've changed the way external and broken links are displayed. While the internal and external types are generated automatically by the scripts here, I have to manually add the "broken" status to the bad links. So you'll continue to encounter 404's by following links from the archive until I get around to fixing them all. I did go through the first archive page for Q4 1997 and fix everything. Let me know if you find something screwy.

16 May 2002 - Ambient Monsters

Tim Prezzano has been hacking away at the NUON SDK and recently released Ambient Monsters. It's supposed to be a chill-out sort of program. Unfortunately I can't play it since I don't have an N-501. I really need to sell my Toshiba and upgrade to the Samsung. That way I won't miss out on these things. Anyway, you can download the program here. Or jam on over to NUON Dome to get the full scoop on everything NUON (which ain't much these days).

Way to go Tim! You're cranking out the titles faster than me and I have a full dev kit. Of course I actually have to do something to have it done. Games don't write themselves.

20 May 2002 - Can you believe it?

Game Progress I actually worked on Chomp a bit Sunday. It took some work to get the NUON dev kit talking to my PC since upgrading to Windows 2000. Thankfully having both a wireless network card and a wired card in the same system behaves better in Win 2K than it did in Win 98.

I finished adding a more continuous range of speeds for Chomp and the enemies. Before, they could only move one pixel per frame or some integer multiple (or divisor) thereof. So you could go (for example) normal speed, double speed, or half speed, but nothing in between. That made it hard to have a smooth ramp in difficulty. One level may have been absurdly easy because the enemies were moving half your speed while the level next would be very difficult when they're the same. Now the speed and location of the sprites is represented by a 16.16 fixed point value.

Also, I removed the constraint that the player may only turn at the center of a tile. Obviously it is necessary that you can only turn a corner when at the center. However this contraint also prevented you from doing an immediate 180 - you had to wait until Chomperman got to the center of the next tile. This only took a fraction of a second, but even that may lead to your demise. Changing this gives the player more control, which is always good.

I finally dug into Spy Hunter this weekend. It's a really cool game - one I definitely look forward to playing more. It has aspects that I find extremely desirable in a game. The missions are short - less than 10 minutes each. You can blow through a level and do the bare minimum or you can take your time to learn the ins and outs in order to satisfy all the objectives. I was planning to incorporate some of this in my own game once I get back to it.

25 May 2002 - E3 Cometh and Goeth

Another E3 has come and gone. Too bad I couldn't have gone - I really enjoyed the two I went to when I was at VML. It's always difficult to keep up with all the news that comes out of the show and this year was no different. In fact this year had the largest number of titles that I am excited about by a long shot. I'm not into the more typical genres - sports, fighting and racing games don't really appeal to me (unless they have a unique twist like Wipeout or Tobal). This time, however, there are still a ton of games that I will be keeping my eye on:

  Rayman 3 Silent Hill 3 Full Throttle 2
  Superman Zelda Mario
  Metroid Prime Star Fox Adventures Deux Ex 2
  Shenmue II Blinx Vexx
  Quantum Redshift Crazy Taxi 3 Tork
  Yager Doom 3 Project Ego
  Turok Metroid Resident Evil 0
  TJ&E3 Robotech

Work has had me slammed lately and it doesn't look like it will let up soon. I sneak in some Spy Hunter when I can, but programming is mostly out of the question. Ah well.

28 May 2002 - Spoke too soon

While it appeared that I would have to go to work, instead I had the most event-free Memorial Day weekend in a while. I was on call waiting in case they needed me to come in, but that never happened. So while my wife went off and played golf I was stuck at home. Naturally this meant I got lots of quality time with Spy Hunter and lots of programming!

Game Progress I need to figure out how to extract screenshots from Chomp so I can show progress rather than just describe it. Anyway I got lots of major items done this weekend. First, I added warp tunnels. Whereas before you played in an enclosed maze now you can wrap around from side to side like in the original Pac-man. Of course this wouldn't be complete without the ability to slow down the enemies as they follow you through the warp tunnel. So now you can designate tiles as "slow" and they will reduce the enemy speed when passing through them. The slow tiles can be combined with other items too like pills, power pills, or fruit. You can also create a different image for the slow tiles so you can tell the difference between them and regular tiles.

The next addition is a special bonus that occurs when the player eats a certain number of pills consecutively. While in this "bonus mode" the player moves slightly faster and leaves a trail of smoke behind. All points earned while in bonus mode are increased by 50%. The bonus keeps going until the player stops eating pills for too long.

The last major element I added is a level select. You can choose to either play in Arcade Mode like normal or instead select a level. This lets you access some of the later levels that maybe you couldn't get to before (or didn't have the patience to play long enough to get to).

These last two additions, the pill bonus and level select, are necessary for what I have in mind for the next release. I plan to make a Tournament Edition of Chomp where people will be able to compete for the high score on each level. Obviously there is no net connection for NUON so all of this will be done with passwords and a special page on this site. Players will be able to enter their info like name, score, level number, etc. as well as a verification password. The site will keep track of high scores for every level. I hope this generates some friendly competition.

BTW, you may be wondering why the pill bonus is necessary for the Tournament Edition. Since the levels have a fixed number of pills/powerpills/fruit each player would get essentially the same score every time. The only variation would be on ghosts eaten. Having the pill bonus introduces more variety into the scoring. The player that can maintain the bonus longer, and eat more big ticket items while in bonus mode, will score more.

30 May 2002 - Who ya gonna be?

Game Progress Put in a player select last night. I quickly threw together a Ms. Pac-man-ish sprite to use while testing. I'll try to get some more attractive images in there eventually.

I think all that's left for the Tournament Edition is to keep track of high scores for individual levels and allow the player to input their name. I'd still like to think of more bonuses that the player can receive so as to allow a wide variety of high scores. Maybe a time bonus?

3 Jun 2002 - So close and yet...

Game Progress Getting a game totally done and ready for release can take a lot more time than you think. All the little details that need addressing must be fixed before the game is "done". I could probably finish up the game itself in a few more hours work. Then I need to finish up the web pages here that will host the tracking of high scores. And I still need to sit down and crank out some alternative graphics for the walls, player, ghosts, and so on.

This weekend I put in the Tournament Mode. In this mode the high scores for each level are tracked. I want to create all new levels specific to this mode (add that to the to-do list). I could just take the ones that people made for the real game, but they weren't designed with the Tournament Mode in mind. Plus none have the warp tunnels or slow tiles that were added recently.

I've figured out how I'll handle the time bonus. At the start of the level a counter will be at 100%. After some delay, depending on the size of the level, it will begin slowly counting down. Then at the end of the level your score will be multiplied by this percentage, whatever it ends up being. It's very similar to what Yak did in Hover Bovver 2 and works well for the situation here. The player will need to choose whether to go for more bonus points (like ghosts) or finish quickly for a higher percentage.

3 Jun 2002 - Oh yeah

And I finished Spy Hunter. The last mission is tough, but very long and fun. I hope they make a sequel.

6 Jun 2002 - Some progress

Game Progress Chomp now accepts high scores and gives you a verification code. You'll take the code to the Chomp page on this site (which is currently empty) to submit your high score.

Also, the time bonus is in there. It replaces the "players remaining" indicator at the bottom of the screen when you are in Tournament Mode. You can die as many times as you like in this mode - it doesn't keep track or penalize your score. However the clock keeps ticking all the while so you're wasting time while watching the death animation. I'm sure there will be cases where it is still faster to die and get reset than to tranverse the maze. I consider that a valid tradeoff the player must make.

There's just a few more things to tidy up and then I'll work on the web site and get some more graphics drawn.

10 Jun 2002 - The long slog

Game Progress Just plodding through fixing bugs and cleaning things up for Chomp's eventual release. I have one more major locking bug to fix, but I think I have it isolated. I think it's some memory overrun problem, but will know more when I get a chance to get back to debugging.

Sunday evening was spent having dinner with some relatives. One of Gwen's aunts was in town so we met up for dinner in Oakland. It's a great place to meet since that is where Gwen's brother lives and is about half way between us in Mountain View and her mom in Davis.

The best reason, however is Zachary's Chicago Pizza. This is by far the best pizza I have had. I really need to go to Chicago some time and see how it stacks up to the real deal. I can't imagine pizza getting better than Zachary's. It's a good thing we don't live near there or else I'd need to jog every day to work off the extra pounds.

11 Jun 2002 - Squish!

Game Progress I fixed the bug mentioned yesterday. It was due to a stray array index overwriting memory it shouldn't have. That's the last bug I am aware of.

I have one more feature to add before calling the game complete. I want to let the player play the game with the levels in random order. Right now you can only go sequentially so you'll rarely see the upper levels at all.

13 Jun 2002 - Hey, I'm no artist

Game Progress Random mode works as advertised. I spent the rest of the time I had (which wasn't much) creating new wall graphics. I must say I'm rather proud with how one of them turned out. Of course that's on my dinky little 13-inch TV I use for development. We'll see how people like it when played on their big 32-inch monsters. I also made a second wall set that unintentionally looks like vines and started on a third set that will eventually be pipes (the plumbing kind, not the smoking kind).

17 Jun 2002 - Beta time

I've been fixing the archive pages, making links and images work correctly, and migrating content from the old Insider here. I have everything up to October 1998 done. It has been quite a nostalgia trip rereading all those old posts!

Game Progress I sent out the first beta of Chomp to Kevin at NUON Dome. He quickly found a couple issues, but nothing super terrible so far. Things appear to be on track for a real release sometime this week. I want to add more graphics and tweak a couple things first. I also need to figure out a way to grab screenshots. I put code in there to do just that, but since everything in NUON is YCrCb rather than RGB I still need to make a color converter before they will come out right.

20 Jun 2002 - Chomp v1.3 Tournament Edition

Game Progress As you can tell by the above I'm releasing Chomp for NUON. I hope people find it fun and challenging. I also made the Chomp page active with some info on the game. I'll get some screenshots up there as soon as I can.

20 Jun 2002 - Ah, finally

For those wondering what this whole Chomp thing is, here's a shot for you. Very Pac-man-ish don't you think? You are that green blob in the center (you can change your player image to make it even more like Pac-man if you want).

The first player scores are starting to trickle in.

27 Jun 2002 - Upkeep

I've added a few new features to the Chomp high scores page. First, there's a screenshot for every level. Plus I added navigation links that let you go to the next/previous level without having to hit BACK. I also tried to make the top scorer of each level stand out more by putting them in a larger font and a different background. Finally, just recently I added a table to the main page that lists the five most recent scores that have been submitted. (It won't show up until someone enters a score [EDIT: Ah, there it is].)

I'm also still adding content to the game. I made a couple more wall graphics, some new enemy sprites, new pill images, and a couple more sound effects. I want to get a bunch more levels made so that the Tournament Mode isn't limited to just six.

I found an undesireable feature (aka "bug"), but am probably not going to fix it since doing so would change the dynamics of the game. I don't want to change anything that would potentially affect scores in tournament mode. It's not a bad bug - it just causes some strange enemy behavior.

28 Jun 2002 - Mole report

It's that time again. The new season of The Mole is upon us (after an extended haitus). Actually the season is half over. So it's time for my impressions of each of the participants and who I think could be the mole.

  • Al - Yes - he's one of my top picks, but not for any specific thing he did in the game. It's just that one of the episodes they said they were going to give a clue to the mole's identity. During the episode they had a game that involved carrying wine bottles. The wine was called "La Mole". I figure "La" is an anagram for "Al". It's a stretch I know.
  • Bill - Maybe - But I'm leaning towards no. He seems too "real".
  • Bribs - No - He doesn't seem to be that devious. Still, I should watch him more.
  • Darwin - No - He also seems too real.
  • Dorothy - Maybe/Yes - She's quiet and gets out of breath way too easily. Plus she got the answers to a couple questions out of thin air right as time was running out. Almost like they had been given to her beforehand.
  • Heather - Maybe/Yes - She plays a good game. I haven't made up my mind about her yet.
  • Katie - No way - Like Jennifer from last season she plays too much from the heart.

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