subQuark

Zombalamba play testing – good for my soul

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Designing a board game has been a refreshing distraction while working on the ChuChu Chicken & Pedro the Goat stories.

Three of the five books are written with the first two being in the editor’s hands and the first with the illustrator.

For those times that I need a break from the PC, heading over to the game lab (the dining room table – hopefully without the oh-so-helpful Bella the cat) is a refreshing break. Playing with dice, paper, and scissors isn’t just a break from technology but also good for the soul.

The children’s books certainly tap into my inner child but the game and its pieces lets that inner child play with something tangible.

It’s also planted the seed that maybe I could make a ChuChu & Pedro board game for little ones!

2014-03-zombalamba

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Written by subquark

March 27th, 2014 at 10:03 am

Zombalamba game counters – another option

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Zombalamba is in very early stages of development and it’s striving to be a Euro style game. As such, it has “halma” pawns for zombies and roly pawns for players.

The game has the concept of resources which are used to carry out running (player pawn movement) and attacks (zombie pawn capture). The number of resources that can be carried are limited to mimic real-world conditions of being on foot with a small backpack.

It was natural to think in terms of chipboard counters like many games use. They are economical to print and you can create whatever graphics seem best suited. In Zombalamba, these resources went through a few iterations and ended up being water, food, and medical supplies. A fourth resource indicated by a thumbs up graphic were luxury items like binoculars and flashlights, but these were dropped in favour of placing those items into an “event” card deck as a way to help players with low resources level up. This simplifies the play and acts as a balancing tool (a card with binoculars might be worth two of any resource, for example).

The challenge with the counters arose with the printing quality. I want this game to be 100% made in the USA and to be a home assembled game. People outside the self-published game industry react strongly to this with comments like

but what if you sell 10,000 in a year?

If that becomes the case (cue a daydreaming sequence), then that’s an excellent challenge to face! =)

One mainstream game printer only does card stock for counters which I find too thin to handle easily and the other custom game printer has far too much drift in their cutting and the paper on the edges wears away easily.

I looked at custom plastic chips but they are too expensive and then I looked at some other games and came up with a solution keeping in the Euro style and keeping with my desire to be text free in my pieces.

Dice! Humble dice!

They’re easy to handle and people understand what they are. A six sided dice (d6) has a built in limit of 6 as the max of a resource and this means fewer pieces for faster game setup!

Rather than having 108+ chipboard counters and a bank for them with subsequent passing back and forth, now I only need 18 dice (three per each of six players). The player turns the dice to increment their resources. This isn’t a new concept in games, but it was new to me and a seemingly good solution.

And to top it off, the dice come out to be less expensive at 16 cents each and lend a higher quality feel to the game. Time and lots of play testing will see how this pans out . . .

counters

the round card stock counters are too thin, the chipboard counters aren’t cut well enough and the edges are already wearing off, but maybe the dice will work? (and be something to fidget with during others’ turns)

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Written by subquark

March 4th, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Convert a Raster Image to Vector with Adobe Creative Suite

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I’ve used Flash since 1999 and thought it would be around forever. The power of ActionScript made so many things possible with Flash from making SCORM compliant quizzes to very intricate software simulations to dynamic apps. Oh well . . .

One neat thing that many people have used Flash for was to take raster images and convert them into vector by importing the image into Flash and then tracing the bitmap. The result is a vector graphic that you can mess with in Flash.

However, I’ve never exported the vector image out from Flash for use in Illustrator. I never had the need to do that until yesterday nor did I know it was possible.

Indeed, it is possible with CS5 or above!

Import your raster image into Flash, trace the bitmap (there are several settings that affect the precision and time it takes to do the tracing), and then export that image to the FXG format. The FXG format is an Adobe XML format that can be opened in Illustrator.

So what was the need for this? A custom dice for our fledgling game.

Years ago I had drawn a hand print for use as part of a graphic and it was a small raster image done at 72 dpi for internet use. I needed a much larger 300 dpi image and ended up making one that’s 7.5 inches square – about 30 times larger than the original raster!

I sent over the Illustrator vector file and shortly after had the excellent proof below.

dice

Here are the specifics on the dice – this is from Chessex Dice who are considered the gold standard for gaming dice (both casino and home gaming). The art department is very nice to work with and the cost for one custom side (the “ones” side) comes out to 75 cents per dice for a quantity of three dozen and they can do as few as 10.

Chessex has many colours available and can do very fine detail on as many sides as needed and also on varying sided dice (dodecahedrons, etc).

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Written by subquark

January 24th, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Publishing on Demand for Games

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I’ve started to dabble in “publishing”, which sounds sophisticated to my world paradigm, but it’s actually within mainstream grasp.

Publishing on Demand for books is becoming easier and you can have your book online within 48 hours if it’s in a Word Doc (Kindle Direct Publishing). That’s pretty accessible – no need for high-end software or a hard-to-acquire account with a printer such as Lightning Source – and the barriers between your creativity and sharing it with the world are becoming smaller.

In my quest to publish my own books, I stumbled upon a similar Print on Demand model for games.

Publish your own games? I never imagined that such a thing was possible.

Real tangible games in the form of board games and card games. By the way, stumble is my euphemism for a distraction from writing a first set of children’s chapter books!

All of this to say that if you’ve ever thought of creating a game or are looking for a creative distraction from writing, maybe this is new to you too!

pawns

Hexagonal tiles I drew up and laminated with contact paper along with some playing pieces from The GameCrafter give me a break from writing. And definitely expand my daydreaming frontier!

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Written by subquark

January 16th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

My New Favourite Stock Image Site

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By day I create application eLearning for a global company (Amadeus IT) and occasionally need stock images. Buying stock images becomes expensive and often I simply need a pretty image as a background for a course menu or a lesson’s last page. This type of image helps break up the sea of application screenshots that make up the bulk of our eLearning.

While looking for free images for a home project, I stumbled upon a site with nothing but public domain images. These images can be used commercially and don’t need attribution.

It’s not Getty images and you won’t find model sets, but you can log in with your Google account and find many top quality images in varying sizes.

http://pixabay.com/

pixabay

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Written by subquark

January 14th, 2014 at 9:33 am

Posted in elearning

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Microsoft Word one page display at any zoom

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I use Microsoft Word for writing and save them online in Google Drive.

I have an inexpensive monitor with a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels and would consider it to be fairly mainstream yet when viewing a Word document at 100% zoom, I get two pages displaying. I would only like to see one page and searching on Google reveals this to be a big pain for many people.

The most cited solution is to size the Word application window narrower in order to force a single page display depending on the zoom level you would like.

That seems like a pretty poor design by Microsoft.

But, after a bit more searching, I found the exact solution I wanted – to be able to have the Word app fully maximised, display only one page of my document, and zoom to any size.

Go to the View tab and select One Page, then hold down the control key while rolling the mouse wheel to change the zoom.

Word will zoom in and out AND keep only one page viewable.

zoom

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Written by subquark

November 19th, 2013 at 11:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Halloween Invaders Flash Game

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Ener Hax asked me to revive a Flash game I made for Halloween 2006!

It’s a rip off inspired by Space Invaders and so old that it is in ActionScript 1 and Flash Player 6! This is back when you used “sprites” in Flash and each object had its own coding.

Today, that game in Flash would be coded all in the first frame on the root timeline with ActionScript 3.

It’s silly and as simple as the original, especially when compared to today’s games, but Space Invaders was a huge hit back in 1978!

from Wikipedia:

In 2008, Guinness World Records listed it as the top-rated arcade game in technical, creative, and cultural impact.

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and see how far we’ve come – today we have free tools like OpenSim and Sim-on-a-Stick – it’s easy to take it all for granted!

Game On – 1978 Style! :)

invaders

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Written by subquark

October 25th, 2013 at 10:04 am

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Space visualisation done economically

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I’ve written in the past about my use of OpenSim, specifically Sim-on-a-Stick, as part of my day job. One post discussed the use of OpenSim as a way for eLearning developers to create easy-to-use sets for doing video.

A few years ago I spoke at a handful of conferences about using Second Life as this type of studio and it was well received by the eLearning community. However, the cost of Second Life is prohibitive for most corporate eLearning departments and that’s enough of a stumbling block to prevent its adoption. With Sim-on-a-Stick, or even Kitely‘s incredibly affordable OpenSim hosting, cost is no longer an issue.

However, many eLearning professionals maintain that learning to build in OpenSim comes with a steep learning curve. I don’t agree with that and have taught many how to build in an hour. When comparing OpenSim to “real” 3D programs, such as Blender, then the learning curve is incredible short! Blender is much more difficult to master but your results can be more photo-realistic but come at a cost of long building and rendering times.

An hour doesn’t make a new user an expert builder like Ener Hax, but they certainly can start building useful objects and hone their skills. Compare that to what a new user would be able to do after an hour learning Blender . . .

I continue to maintain that photo-realism is not necessary in certain applications. After all, everyone sees this :) as a happy face even though it’s a colon and closing parenthesis.

The other way that I have used OpenSim, again Sim-on-a-Stick specifically, is to create floor spaces that are used to respond to proposals. These are built to the dimensions of existing floor plans and used by a marketing sales team to layout a potential customer’s exhibit booth and materials. The goal in this past post was to layout standard-sized booths, table, banners from a custom inventory and import and apply a customers artwork in a matter of minutes. The client was able to consistently create these layouts in under 20 minutes and then take snapshots and video to use in their RFP responses.

Along a similar line to this second example, here is a video of a pre-construction space where the client wanted to book business before the property was open. Being able to visualise the space with this video, and other videos and static images, allowed their sales team to have meeting space revenue booked a year in advance of their grand opening. It’s not unusual to book function space five and ten years in advance.

A common thread for these uses is one of budget. Everyone thinks they want cinema quality video until they see the expensive of it!

In these cases, OpenSim provides a solution that is affordable, relatively easy to use, and effective!

direct YouTube link

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Written by subquark

July 22nd, 2013 at 11:46 am

Posted in virtual world

OpenSim on an Android tablet vs. a desktop

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written by Ener Hax and reposted from the iliveisl blog:

sometimes people ask me what i think about OpenSim and tablets. most in the OpenSim community know about Lumiya but those that ask me are typically outsiders (them!) and include people in the corporate eLearning that have seen how we have used it as a free 3D video studio (old post by subQuark)

Lumiya works very well (there was an update last night – after i had taken these pics!) but it is not the desktop experience. i still use Imprudence 1.3.2 which is what is shown below. newer browsers render more nicely than version 1 viewers but the screen shots below are simply to show the difference

i don’t know why my avatar doesn’t render out, i have seen other people’s screen shots where theirs do – must be an enersyncrasy or maybe i’m so bright you have to wear shades =p

would i use Lumiya for more than simply checking it out?

no, there isn’t a case where i would suggest Lumiya over a desktop to interact with anything i make. that said, if it was the only access someone had to something like our Enclave Harbour project, then i would be okay with it. i think our “3D illustrations” for science field trips will work in Lumiya

the second image shows the tower crane and nuclear power plant components and would be usable in conjunction with the workbook. the experience would still be immersive in that a student could walk around the builds but it wouldn’t be as rich as a desktop

i believe that as tablets become more powerful (or are inevitably morphed in favour of tablet-sized ultra PCs with detachable keyboards) then we will have rich OpenSim experiences – it’s just a matter of time =)

 

lumiya-compare_002

Haxor Lunar Lounge in Kitely – one of two kid-friendly clubs in Enclave Harbour

 

lumiya-compare_003

old school nuclear power plant in Enclave Harbour

 

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Written by subquark

June 12th, 2013 at 9:44 am

Posted in education,virtual world

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Weather for Jan Brewer and Creationists

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Jan Brewer, Arizona Governor, was asked if she believes global warming is man-made and her response was:

Everybody has an opinion on it, you know, and, uh, you know, I probably don’t believe that it’s man-made. I believe that, uh, you know, um, weather elements are controlled maybe by, uh, different things.

Fortunately, you don’t need to have an opinion or believe in the weather or global warming. Neither are things of faith and neither cares if you believe in them or not. You don’t need to believe in transistors or electricity to use a cell phone either.

The short answer, for Jan and anyone else that thinks science is a belief system, is the sun and our atmosphere. It doesn’t matter if God made the sun and Earth or if the Big Bang did (or if God made the Big Bang knowing that from it we would exist).

If you go outside on a sunny day, you can feel the sun on your skin – it’s warm and that’s solar radiation (sunlight). We are just the right distance from the sun so that we are not too hot or too cold.

If you go outside, you can breathe – that’s out atmosphere. Our atmosphere exists because gravity (the Earth’s mass) can hold onto the gases that make up the atmosphere.

Some other planets have atmospheres but something unique to us is that water can exist in all three forms (phases) as a solid (ice), liquid (water), and a gas (water vapour – humidity).

The water cycle is very important for the weather and for life on Earth. Water from the oceans can evaporate and condense into clouds. Clouds and water vapour in the air help make a warm blanket around the Earth. That’s why deserts get cold at night – low humidity (but that makes for a good hair day Jan). Water is great at holding in heat and letting it go later (latent heat).

In fact, that’s why we call water vapour a greenhouse gas. It helps the atmosphere act like a greenhouse and keeps our planet warm at night. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is also a greenhouse gas and is naturally occurring. The ocean’s absorb and release carbon dioxide and that helps regulate how much CO2 is in the atmosphere.

Photosynthesis produces CO2 at night and humans exhale some CO2. Carbon dioxide is natural and very important for life as we know it – to help keep the Earth at the right temperature for us.

So why do we always hear the greenhouse gases are bad if they are natural and important?

More CO2 means that Earth’s atmosphere acts as a warmer greenhouse and that means it gets hotter outside.

We don’t really know how big an effect we, as humans, have related to CO2 but we do know that we have been adding lots of CO2 to the atmosphere since the Industrial Age (combustion releases lots of CO2). Since we can control how much CO2 we release, shouldn’t we at least reduce how much we are adding since we know what it does?

We know that adding more CO2 to the atmosphere is adding more greenhouse gas. We know that greenhouse gases hold in heat, so shouldn’t we at least take responsibility for what we add?

Jan – the weather is mainly the sun and our atmosphere; that’s a nice and concise answer and it doesn’t matter if you believe in it and you don’t have to forsake your God either.

Join us next week when we talk about why the sky is blue (UV light scattering), how clouds reflect sunlight (albedo), and how Earth’s spinning affects weather (Coriolis effect). All without making anyone have to give up on God . . .

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Written by subquark

December 4th, 2012 at 10:12 am

Posted in education

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