News Archive Q3 '99
September 24, 1999 - Yes I do update

Unlike the guys at Penny Arcade I do update the page sometimes. At least they're still making comics on a regular schedule.

My time has been spent playing games lately. I recently finished Norse By Norsewest which is a sequel to the Lost Vikings. I loved the original, and the sequel is almost as good. The puzzles aren't as challenging, but there are two extra characters to play with (and one is voiced by Gilbert Godfreid). The voice acting really elevates the game up a notch. I hope they do a 3D Lost Vikings on a next gen platform.

I've also been playing Sonic Adventure and System Shock 2. So you can see I have my hands/fingers busy at the moment.

September 9, 1999 - Eeeeek! 9-9-99!!

Well according to CNN, nothing happened due to the date being 9-9-99. And yet we all know something did happen. Sega Dreamcast!

I told myself I wouldn't get caught up in the hype. "I don't need to buy it right away," I said. "I'll wait until there's a must-have game, and *then* I'll buy it." Little did I realize how weak my willpower was. I decided to stop by Target and Walmart on the way to work this morning on the off chance that they still had some. Target didn't have anything Dreamcast related. Walmart, however, still had three systems left. So I had to get one. I rationalize it like this. When that game-that-I-must-have comes out, I don't want to be caught without a system and not able to find one due to all the stores being sold out. So I got it. I also got Sonic and a VMU. Wooooooo!!!!!!

September 8, 1999 - TimPak compression utility

I spent much of the weekend developing a compression utility. I am starting to hit the upper bound on RAM in the Yaroze and figured I might as well start compressing the graphics. The earlier I start doing it, the more time I have to work out any bugs.

The program I developed works only on TIM files since Decaying Orbit is primarily a 2D game. As it exists now it does a reasonable job at compressing 4-bit TIMs and a not-so-good job with 8-bit TIMs. The problem lies in the amount of time it takes to compress a file. The 4-bit TIMs can take a minute or two depending on complexity, but 8-bit TIMs can take upwards of 30-60 minutes (again for a complex one). This makes it very difficult to test things as the time between iterations is very large. This is purely on the encoding side of things (on the PC). Decompressing the packed TIM on the Yaroze is very fast.

How well does it pack? I compared my TimPak results with WinZip and for small 4-bit TIMs the results are comparable. In some cases my compression does better. In general, the smaller the input TIM the better it compresses (percentage-wise).

August 31, 1999 - Perspective problems

The good news is I successfully got the polygonal planets integrated into the code. The (somewhat) bad news is that I'm having trouble with the projection step. I need parallel projection to get the planets to line up exactly where I want them, but I don't think the Yaroze can do that. It only does perspective projection. This means the farther away from the center of the screen a planet is, the more "off" it appears from where it should be. I can compensate for that in software, but having parallel projection would have been the easiest method.

August 25, 1999 - DO Artwork

Here's a spiffy logo Dave came up with:

August 24, 1999 - OPSM received

My thanks to Bob Shand and George Bain who sent me a copy of the OPSM issue with Decaying Orbit. I was pleased to see the game title on the cover of the disc. Here's a couple scans. The first is of the CD cover with the appropriate areas blown up. The other is the page from the magazine. It's kind of cool how my blurb is right above the blurb for Tekken 3! I'll excuse the editors for getting the analog controls incorrect :)

August 23, 1999 - We have polygons!

I read through Peter Passmore's 3D tutorial. In a matter of hours I had a polygonal texture-mapped planet in place of his car. That went far better than I had anticipated. I hope integrating the code into Decaying Orbit will prove just as straight forward.

First, however, I had to revert the Decaying Orbit code to its pre-OPSM state. There were a few menu selections I took out for the mag so as to not confuse players. I've put them back in so I remember to actually make them do something. Can you say load/save to memory card?

I think it might be tricky to get sprites and polygons to mesh correctly. Especially since I need some sprites to be in front of and some in back of the polys.

August 19, 1999 - Gearing up

This weekend I will most likely start work on Decaying Orbit again. My finacee is going to China for a month so I will have more time to myself to do coding. I'm hoping the transition to polygon planets will go smoothly.

August 10, 1999 - The future of Decaying Orbit

I am sooooo tempted to keep working on Decaying Orbit! This past weekend I received the first emails from people that have played the game on the OPSM cover disc. It's such a huge motivator to have people playing the game and telling you they like it - especially when they're not in the Yaroze program (that was not intended to be a slam to my fellow Yarozers :).

I need to think about this a bit more. I have some ideas to update the game engine to make the planets polygonal rather than sprites. It would still be the same 2D game, but the planets would look (I think) loads better. I'll have to do some experiments to see if it affects the frame rate. Plus there are just so many ideas I didn't have time to implement in the current version. I'd love to get back to it and put them in.

This way I would still get some experience with 3D (if the planets are polygonal) and I'd get to continue work on a game I like so much. If anyone has opinions one way or another I'd love to hear them.

July 22, 1999 - New introduction

I updated the note for first time visitors. Take a gander at it if you like.

July 21, 1999 - It lives!

I finally got off my lazy butt and hooked up the dev system. It works like a charm. I've started going over some of the sample code included with the SDK. I'll start tinkering around with the system relatively soon. I don't know how to dump screenshots, but I'm sure there's a way. Of course I won't have anything to show for a while anyway.

In Yaroze news, I got the word from George Bain that Decaying Orbit passed QA and will be included on a future OPSM demo disc. I'm not sure what issue though.

July 14, 1999 - OpenGL

I received my OpenGL Programming Guide in the mail recently (got it from Buy.com - Amazon was more expensive). It doesn't seem too difficult - much to my joy. I still need to get the dev system to communicate with my PC. Hopefully I can get that going soon so I can tinker around with our libraries.

I keep forgetting to put up the source for Decaying Orbit. I promise as soon as I actually remember (while at home), I will put it up.

July 6, 1999 - Still alive

Well well well. How things have changed. I'm not sure when I'll get a chance to work with the Yaroze since I recently got a new toy. I took home a dev system from work and will be playing with that for the time being.

My first project will still be the board game mentioned below. I will keep this page updated as much as I can without violating NDAs and the like.

As for lack of updates to the Decaying Orbit site, I will add more stuff eventually. If/when the game gets put on the OPSM disc I will surely add a lot more content.


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