Robot vs. Monsters – Dev Diary 1

So I’ve been talking for a little while now with Ash about creating a game, and talking with him about what he would do for making his own. The first many many ideas were basically the same game as him iPhone or Wii favorites, but usually with Lego or Star Wars tossed into the mix. (Angry Birds Star Wars, Lego Star Wars Wii Sports and so on) I encouraged him to come up with his own, new idea that hadn’t been done before, and the idea we settled on would be our own little masterpiece together – Robot vs. Monsters.

His basic idea was that you are a robot tasked to protect a city and the people in it from attacking monsters. He wanted 4 levels, and of course a big boss to fight at the end. The goal of each level would be to save all the humans on the level, and to defeat the monsters using your robot’s weapons.

A feature list we collaborated on:
– 4 Action Packed Levels (each with a different environment!)
– Epic boss battle!!
– Save tiny humans!!
– Use exotic robot weaponry! (Swords! Blasters! More!)
– Sound Effects!!
– Side scrolling, 2D, platforming adventure!!!
– Fun for the whole family!!!

Fairly simple right? Except for the fact that I haven’t programmed anything seriously since college over 10 years ago. Forgotten how to ride that bicycle, and what better time than now to learn all over again.

I decided to make it a Flash based game, so it would be easy to share with friends and family. A good part of the reasoning was as well that there would be plenty of documentation, tutorials and help out there on the web for me to use to help build this game.

I chose to use a Flash library called flixel which has been so far an extremely easy to use framework to get my little game started. There is also an incredible wealth of tutorials out there to work with.

I started with their EZPlatformer Tutorial as a base to get the general idea of how to build a platformer, and since then have been busy tinkering with it adding little bits and pieces to learn more.

I’ve added:
– Sound effects (coin pickup and jumping)
– A player “sprite” (my artwork is terrible I know!)
– Created a tile based level in an editor (DAME)
– Created my own coins to add to the level
– Managed to get it all, somewhat working, with a scrolling level!

Yes some of the level is broken below (inaccessible areas due to the little guy not being able to jump high enough), but it’s a start! Enjoy tinkering with the first little example of what we’re doing:

Click the window to play. Arrows to move. Space to jump!

The next update should include the following:
– New Robot character
– New, less generic map that’s bigger
– Humans to collect instead of coins

I figure those are easy enough goals to work towards, and creating small goals will make this all that much closer to completion.

Responsibilities for this project:
Ash – Lead Designer, Concept Art, Level Concepts, Game Director
Brian – Code monkey, Artist, Level Builder

I’m letting Ash guide the game as much as possible so that he feels like it’s his game, and in the meantime I’ll enjoy building a game and learning something new. Enjoy!

Baseball – My Sport.

Baseball is back! We’re well into the season already and it’s a wonderful thing. I meant to post something about this earlier in the season, but I just didn’t get around to it. So here it goes. My one of maybe other baseball posts as the year goes on.

I love baseball. It’s a funny thing to me. It’s my real first sports love. Maybe I know the NFL and the goings on in Football more these days, but when it comes back to it all, it’s the feel, the sounds, and baseball that I would end up saying is my favorite sport. No contest.

Baseball started early for me. Probably the first thing my dad and I bonded over was baseball. He and I, now that we’re older, have more to talk about, but when I was a kid I was drawn to computers, videogames and books. But one thing we always loved was watching an Oakland A’s game together or playing catch or practicing for my little league games. This was my start with the game.

It’s a funny thing this baseball. It’s impossible to try and explain the rules to someone who doesn’t know. I remember seeing a minor league game with some friends of the family who were from England. It was as impossible to explain to them as cricket is to explain to us. The weird nuances, the terminology that just becomes second nature to you as a kid because you play it and are surrounded by it. This is baseball!

It’s the years I spent playing it as a kid in little league. You always had the kids who’s parents forced them to play, and the kids who were more gifted with athletic abilities. Me? I was in the middle. I loved to play, but was in no way gifted with natural athletic prowess. I played for many years, but it was entering those High School years that left me behind. I was okay at the game, but never great enough to play on the high school team. Other school sports called me.

It’s all the major league games I remember going to as a kid. The tailgates. The vendors calling out “Cold beer here! Peanuuuuutttssss!” The cheers of the crowd. The joy of rising out of your seat after the crack of a well hit ball, and the hope of it being a home run for your team! The hope, every time you go, of catching a foul ball. (only once in all my years of games have I gotten one and that may be it for my lifetime! I hope not.) The food. The hot summer days. The little fold down seats. It’s heaven.

But here’s in the end what I’m trying to get at. I love baseball. I love the feel of the game. I love the pace of the game. I love the sounds of the game. I love seeing all levels of the game being played. From the little league game to the Mariner’s (who seem to have an aversion to winning these days). I don’t mind the long games. The games where no one is scoring because the pitchers are really on fire. The games where the score is more like a football game. It’s all great.

It, to me, is the only major American sport that is suited to listening to on the radio if you can’t be there or watch it on the TV. Maybe it’s the years I’ve watched and played the game, but the pace of the game, and the simplicity of where the ball can go on any given play lends itself well to play by play, and I never mind hearing a game as I can always picture it in my head so easily.

So here’s to the Spring and Summer, when I get my baseball fix in. When I get to a Mariner’s or a Tacoma Rainier’s game as often as I can. Where even if I’m not sitting and watching the game, I love to hear it in the background in the evening while I make dinner, clean the house or play with my son. Here’s to the game itself. Even if my local team isn’t winning all the time. I’m still a fan. I’ll be there. I may throw my hand up in frustration in another loss, but I’ll be back the next day with the hope of a win, and if nothing else the good feelings of the game.


3 Months.

Now I’m not one to usually go for the personal posts, or try one of those more lyrical and thoughtful posts that some people just manage to pull off with out even a conscious thought. It’s not that I don’t like that type of post, or reading that from others, but I so admire it in people and their ability to write and their ability to share their feelings and their insights. Maybe it’s a feeling of not having the ability or that my own intuitions about life and what I feel isn’t as meaningful or as well writen. I think I just don’t like my own writing style or that my writing never quite seems to say what I feel I want it to say.


These last three months have been interesting. Many who know me laugh at my even temper and my steady emotional state. It’s part of my anchor system that’s carried me through so much in my life. But it’s a bit crazy discovering still yet new emotions and feelings at seemingly this later stage in life. It’s not like they are anything dramatic, or new to the human race, and millions of others have experienced them for sure, but they have really for me been a personally new thing. It’s those age old feelings of loss, loneliness, sadness, betrayal, confusion, frustration, and even, well not really anger, but can’t quite find the right word here.

I feel so weird talking about them in almost an analytical way here, but it’s how I do things. I’m not the best talker, I have a hard time sharing my feelings anyways unless someone draws me out, or asks questions, and so many people don’t. (I think many people don’t want to pry.) So much of my life I’ve always processed things internally, thought about them. Whether that’s good or not I don’t know.

Point of all this I suppose is that that while this has sucked, it’s also teaching me a lot about myself. I’m discovering how to make friends again, and keeping connections with those you know. I’m finding that passion is attractive, and if I find it attractive in others, it also means that you need to be passionate yourself about something if you want others to find you interesting. I’m discovering that I’m still the nerdy guy I always was. I have discovered that my son means more to me than life itself and that all of this would have been impossible without his little hugs and kisses. I’ve got a new range of empathy for others.

We’ll see. 3 months have done a lot. What will the next three hold? Here’s looking at you life…

Early Nasa Moon Images Restored and Recovered

NASA’s early lunar images, in a new light – Los Angeles Times.

A great quick story about a woman who kept early images produced by the Lunar Orbiter missions from the trash pile, and with help was finally able to get the early space images recovered back to their original fidelity and resolution.

It’s amazing how so much history can get almost thrown away so cavalierly.

The Software Behind the Phoenix Lander

I don’t tend to do link log type of things, but I found this fascinating, in that it’s an amazing interview with one of the software engineers behind the Mars Phoenix Lander. It recently landed atop the North Pole of Mars on a search for water. The developer talks about the limitations of the hardware, the design process and the safe guards they have in place to make sure it keeps working. It’s a fascinating read. Check it out here.

Now Reading

I’ve changed the look around on the page temporarily, and I don’t know how long I’ll stick with this template, but it was brought to my attention that Cinder Inc. was broken in IE, which I never knew as I have always accessed my own site through Firefox, Opera, or even Safari, but hadn’t visited with IE since before my upgrade to Word Press 2.2. Everything should work, but let me know if you find something that doesn’t.

Another new thing I’m glad to have around, and have been wanting, it the Now Reading plugin for Word Press, and you’ll find it off to the right.

Basically it’s a virtual bookshelf, where I can keep track of what I’ve read, am reading and what’s on my shelf to read. I can leave mini-reviews, and it’s a fun way to see what’s going on. I’ve always wanted to share more of the books I’ve been reading with readers and now I have a simple way. Problems with it? I now feel more of a need to finish a book so I don’t have a book sitting in my “Now Reading” part for long periods of time. Not a truly bad thing.

Autumn and the Plot Against Me

AutumnFound this great story of the quest of a Vanity Fair writer. It’s Nick Tosches’ quest to find out where in the world the great Windows desktop background “Autumn” really was. It’s a great read, and it’s suprising how much trouble he really had to go through to find out even the location and the photographer.
Check out his story here.

Found on kottke again.

Tacoma Blogging

Through some long forgotten ways and in the usual way of the Internet, I found out about a few local Tacoma blogs that cover happenings and things going on in my nice little city. I like the ideas of local blogging, and the specific topics that they can cover (one of the failings of Cinder Inc. is a lack of focus on a particular topic). It’s a little weird hearing them talk about something that’s down the street from me, or a place I eat frequently. Fun though as well, and they get into some interesting things that I’ve never noticed about T-town.

Two that are updated most frequently are Kevin Freitas’s Blog and Exit 133. Both talk about the development of Tacoma’s business and residential landscape, and also how they are changing with growth, development, and destruction.

Take for example their coverage of the spontaneous collapse of the Eagles building here just a few blocks away from me.? It’s great to see a few local blogs covering things you wouldn’t expect to see covered in a small city.

Surveillance – Jonathan Raban

Surveillance: A NovelSurveillance – Jonathan Raban

Jess and I had the good fortune to be able to attend a reading by Jonathan Raban on up at Elliot Bay Book Company for the release of his new book Surveillance. Neither of us has had a chance to read the book yet (Jess was finishing up another Raban book and I was working my way through a book I’ll talk about on here later) so I’ll save the book review on it till later, but I was very impressed with him as an author at a reading.

We have an interesting history with reading Raban, with Jess getting his book Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings as a class reading assignment. Falling in love with his incredibly engaging writing style where he took a literal journey from Seattle to Juneau on his boat, but also gave the interesting history of the discovery and settling of the northwest by explorers and those who followed. This is how his travel writing is. The history, along with his own accounts of the journey, and his touching, surprising, sad and happy encounters with people and places along the way.

We read another one of his books, Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America, to each other while walking our son Ash to sleep when he was first born. It helped take the edge off of long sleepless nights and was truly a lifesaver.

He was an engaging reader of his newest book, a novel, set in Seattle and dealing with the ever present surveillance that we already have, but kicked up a notch and how it affects people in his story. He’s British, and has a wonderful accent, and viewpoint on culture. He’s a confident person, but didn’t come across as arrogant. He takes the reviews of his books lightly and with humor, which I think must be a necessity when being a writer otherwise you’d beat yourself up. He answered questions with some thought, and even tried to answer ones that were a little bit from left field with good humor and grace.

One of the most interesting bits of the night? From what it sounds like, Jonathan Raban is a MMORPG player. That’s right, with quotes about how the wilderness of Washington has found it’s way into games such as Everquest and World of Warcraft, as well as discussing the connectedness of these games, I think he’s a writer who has a game playing hobby. It’s interesting to compare this to William Gibson, who until recently wasn’t much of a computer user even though he’s the so-called father of the cyberpunk genre of novels in the 80’s.

Jess and I talked of how interesting it would be to discuss technology and writing and how it’s changed peoples writing styles. Raban has been writing since the 70’s, and from the sound of his talk, very in tune with the internet and computers today, so his view would be interesting to know.