News Archive Q3 '00
September 27, 2000 - Improvement

I implemented most of the optimizations mentioned last time. I'm proud of one in particular because it nearly doubled the performance of one section of code. I'm constantly amazed at how much power you can eke out of this chip with a little work. In total, the improvements resulted in a 10% performance increase (as measured in clock ticks).

Last night I spent a good couple hours playing Unholy War for Playstation. I've had this game for months and never got around to playing it for any length of time. I've been tempted to sell it back for just that reason, but decided to give it a shot. It's not a bad game. Not great, but entertaining. I'll probably still sell it back though.

September 25, 2000 - 2 weeks to go

We close on the townhouse on October 6th which is when we can actually say that it's ours. Saying so before then would probably bring on the wrath of Murphy or the Great Jinxator.

I've taken a step back from coding at the moment. I need to work out exactly what features I want in the game engine before things get going too far along. Without getting into specifics, I want to add support for anti-aliasing and procedural textures.

I printed out the current renderer and stared at it for a while, going through it with a fine-toothed comb. I thought I had squeezed out most of the performance I could. Amazingly I came across a few significant optimizations. I may implement them just to view their impact, but as stated above I need to rework the engine eventually so I don't want to do too much work that'll be scrapped later.

September 19, 2000 - Couple o' movies

In my quest to avoid letting a week go by without updating, here I am to tell you that I haven't done any programming lately. What I did do was go see Space Cowboys, The Cell, and Highlander: End Game.

Space Cowboys was fun, but predictable. It was very formulaic, if that's even a word. I had high hopes for The Cell and ended up really disliking it. It seems they wanted to make it gross just for the sake of being gross. Plus Jennifer Lopez can't act - or at least doesn't do so in this movie. I have other issues with it, but suffice to say that I wouldn't recommend it. On the other hand I enjoyed Highlander. Maybe it was because I had low expectations for that one and ended up having a good time. I'm not sure I'd pay $8.50 again to see it, but it's worth a rental.

The issue with the townhouse seems to have been resolved. Bottom line is that we might have to pony up more dough for a larger downpayment. Not exactly optimal, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I am *so* looking forward to having that over and done with. Maybe then we can settle back into a normal routine again. After 2 1/2 years of planning a wedding I'm not sure I remember what that's like.

September 14, 2000 - The term "snag" would be an understatement

We're currently having a minor (read: *major*) problem with closing escrow for our townhouse. Hopefully we'll have it all sorted out in a week or two, but for now things are pretty stressful.

I haven't done anything on the game in a while. Maybe I'll have time this weekend - I'm not sure.

One thing that has kept me occupied for a while is Iron Dragon. This computer game is based on the Mayfair board game of the same name. It follows the same basic rules as Empire Builder series of games (which Mayfair also publishes). The premise in all the games is to draw rail lines connecting cities and deliver goods from one city to another. What cities you choose and what goods you deliver are determined by cards dealt out to you. In general, the greater the distance between the city that produces the goods and the one that wants it, the bigger the payoff.

What's so cool about the computer version is that it is so amazingly faithful to the board game. Plus you can play online against others. I haven't done this yet, but once I get comfortable with kicking the computer's ass I will give it a shot. And the fact that the game is in a fantasy setting doesn't hurt either.

September 6, 2000 - Roll that beautiful bean footage

A while back, Bush's had a commercial for their baked beans that hit my funny bone just so. It was a combination of the absurtity of the phrase, the fact that it is uttered by a dog (with a deep gravely voice), and Jay's subsequent "Uh oh" that left me rolling. Some time later my sister, who does market research, came across this little synopsis of the commercial in question and sent it my way. Ah nostalgia. (IMG=380k)


August 30, 2000 - Crunch!

Hear that? It's the sound of another bug losing its life under my foot. Yep, found and squashed a new one yesterday. I also made an optimization that should have sped things up, although I haven't really measured it yet to see if it did.

It's getting pretty annoying not being able to talk more freely about the game. I should just go ahead and say what it is. I was hoping to wait until I had something more substantial to show since my current test code isn't that exciting.

August 29, 2000 - On a roll

As you can tell by the frequent updates, I've been working quite a bit on the new game. It feels good to be back in the programming mode once more. It'll be nice once we move into the new townhouse and have a dedicated computer room.

Anyway, I found and eliminated the last known bug yesterday. I also modified the program to take advantage of the power I wasn't using. It didn't quite double the performance, but the gains were still appreciable. I still have several more optimizations to try before I can feel comfortable leaving it alone.

August 28, 2000 - Call me Mr. Raid

Did some bug squashing this weekend. Killed two major ones. There's still one more bug I need to investigate and then I'll do a few more optimizations.

I recently realized that I'm only taking advantage of half the power I planned to. That, my friends, made me *very* happy. I thought the engine was performing extremely well as is; I'm just giddy with the prospect of getting twice as much performance out of it.

We've been playing quite a bit of Dance Dance Revolution lately. We have to be careful since we live on the second floor of a two-story apartment building. Stomping around at midnight would not make us popular with the downstairs neighbors. I can't wait until we move into the townhouse and can stomp the night away! We're improving somewhat at the game. If you're familiar with the game you know that each song has a difficulty which is depicted by a number of feet. I think 9 feet is the highest. We can do the 3-footers pretty easily, and I'm even able to do some 4-footers. While it's simple to do well on a 3-footer without having played it before, as you get into the 4's and higher it really helps to memorize the songs.

I updated the note to first-time visitors if you want to take a look.

August 25, 2000 - You spent how much?

Woo! We got the aforementioned townhouse! You really don't want to know how much we had to bid on it, but to us it's worth every penny. It's simply perfect for the stage in life the wife and I are in now. We don't get to move in until November/December so it'll be a bit of a wait. Actually that's fine by us since it helps spread out the stress of moving. Guess I should get around to throwing away all those things I've been meaning to.

Now that house hunting is over and done with I can focus more weekend energies on the game. There's always something that crops up, though. We have to order wedding pictures on Saturday and go to a barbeque Sunday (I can feel your pity for me I know). Still, I'm hopeful I can get in a solid block of a few hours time to work on optimizations.

August 23, 2000 - Optimization continues

In the new game, I'm shooting for 320x240 at 30fps. I decided against going full out 640x480 at 60fps since the savings are worthwhile. By allowing more time, and not having to draw at a high resolution, I can cram more stuff into each frame.

I am done optimizing the routine I've been working on. I'll revisit it later as necessary, but as of now I've made it about 80% faster than the original implementation. Woo!

August 21, 2000 - Back in the swing

I now have my dev system at home set up properly so I can do my coding there from now on. It was getting to be a pain staying late at work just to be able to work on the game.

Work on the core routines continues. I made a major breakthrough last night as I improved one section by 20x (as measured by clock cycles). Granted I wasn't doing it very efficiently originally - I just got it to work. Now, however, it has ceased to be a bottleneck which means I can concentrate on other things.

It would be nice if I could speak freely about the NUON architecture, but unfortunately we have IP to protect. Still, I'll try to be as specific as possible when I can.

The wife and I (it'll take a while to get used to saying that) are in house-buying mode right now. The housing market out here in the valley is just plain nuts. Still, we found a townhouse we like and will make a bid on it this week. I hope we get it!

August 14, 2000 - We survived

The wedding went off well. I said all the right words which was the important part. Here are a couple photos if you're interested.

On the programming front, I'm still coding the core routines. I want to get it to an acceptable speed before moving on. I *think* it's fast enough to do what I want. I won't know for sure until I start coding the game itself.

July 28, 2000 - Extiva, a wedding, and a game

This is an exciting time for me. First off, the first NUON-enhanced DVD player has been released - the Samsung Extiva. They're a bit difficult to find since Samsung hasn't maufactured too many yet, but I have heard that a couple people were able to pick one up. I hope this is the start of many successes for VM Labs. The Toshiba unit will be hitting stores later this year (with a much wider release I might add) and there are lots of exciting things planned for next year. Wish I could spill the beans!

While I'm talking about NUON I should say that I got my hands dirty on the new game. I've written some actual code and it seems to be going well. Of course things will change and cause me to rewrite everything, but you gotta jump in sometime right? Right now it's mostly proof-of-concept code - I wanted to be sure I could accomplish what I was planning. The answer is a definite "yes" and I can't wait to start coding the game itself.

I picked up a copy of Dance Dance Revolution 2nd Mix for the Dreamcast. It's an import so I had to get a mod for my DC to be able to play it. I also picked up a couple of dancing pads so we are good to go. The fiancee and I enjoy this game in the arcade, but it's always very crowded. This way we can play at home. It makes for some good exercise too as there are modes in the DC version that let you play forever.

Oh yeah, I'm getting married in 8 days :)

July 17, 2000 - Use the GeForce Luke

Due to FTP problems I wasn't able to upload the previous update last week.

We're back from an exciting weekend at Tahoe. We took some wedding photos up there which made for some beautiful scenery. I can't wait to get the proofs in a couple weeks.

The 4+ hour drive up and back made for some good time to think about the new game brewing in my mind. I've made more progress on the game engine - I've even written some code on paper to jumpstart things. Also, I'm happy to say that I have an idea for the game which will use this engine. I'm really looking forward to getting started on it as I think it will be awesome! Still not 3D, but I think it's really hard for a single person to do justice with a 3D engine. Besides, a platform like NUON is better suited to new rendering techniques since everything is done in software. And let me tell you that the engine I have in mind will be truly unique!

I finally broke down and bought a GeForce 2 card to replace my venerable Matrox. I haven't had a chance to push it very much (Sim Theme Park died horribly when I tried running it with the new card), but the demos that come with the card are impressive indeed.

July 14, 2000 - Tahoe

We're heading to Tahoe this weekend to have some fun before the stress-filled day of our wedding. Only 3 weeks to go!

I've done some more thinking/writing about the new game engine. If I can pull this off it will be extremely neat. More details after I have a chance to try it out.

July 6, 2000 - Vegas

Went to Vegas for the holiday. It was fun as heck and not quite as hot as previous times. We saw the Cirque du Soliel show O. It was unlike any other Cirque show I've seen. Very cool.

It's very hard to find time to start coding again. Since I'm going to do this on a NUON dev system I almost need to be at work. I do have a system at home, but since my computer is in the bedroom I really can't program once the finacee goes to bed. Ah it'll be nice to buy a house and have a dedicated PC area.


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