207 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Couldn’t get any game related work done today.

208 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Double post time. Sorry about the delay.

I couldn’t work on anything today.

First, I got a call from an old client of mine from my freelancing days. They needed some minor changes to an animation that I’d made for them. Turns out I’d put the files related to that job in an obscure directory. Anyways, I’ve made the necessary changes and uploaded the files. Very simple stuff but took quite a long time.

After that I cleaned the house because my parents are coming and I don’t want them to have heart attacks when they walk in. That took a long time too.

I bought some food and started cooking stuff and the day was over before I knew it.

209 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Continuing from yesterday’s post…

As a freelancer it’s very important that you have a website. What’s important on a freelancer’s website? His/her portfolio, period. My belief is that the simpler the site the better. A site with just a portfolio and a contacts section is enough most of the time. And please, no Flash, no fancy navigation menus, no audio, and no artsy fartsy stuff. Keep your website clean, professional and to the point. Don’t make people wait 20 seconds for your pages to load. And definitely no introduction videos or any shitty “click here to enter the site” stuff.

What about your portfolio? Your portfolio is your gateway to riches. With that in mind, your number one goal should always be to give a singular message to your prospective employers. That message should be “I rock” or “I know my stuff.” That’s it.

Now, what is the number one mistake most freelancers make? They put all the shit they’ve created since their childhood into their portfolio page. That’s a BIG NO-NO. “Why’s that?” you may ask. Here’s the answer: An artist usually grows. You become better at what you do. The work you did two years ago is not an accurate reflection of you as an artist now. You only need a couple of pieces to show that you know your stuff. You don’t need 20, or even 10. Just show the work that you’re most proud of and show your true talent. Don’t distort your own message by including inferior work just to fill the page. By doing that you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. Quantity does not equal to quality.

210 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Now that I’ve been on both sides of the freelancing equation (with regards to 3d work), I’ve decided to talk a bit about that.

My first message to all 2d/3d freelancers is – and this may come as a “well, duh!” suggestion – please make a decent website for yourself for fucks sake. I said “this may come as a “well, duh!” suggestion” in the previous sentence because it ACTUALLY IS a “well, duh!” thing and if you fuck up on that front, you’ll seriously blow your chances of getting any freelance work. Let me elaborate on this point.

First things first, get yourself a domain name and buy a hosting account. DeviantART or your portfolio in one of your forum accounts does not cut it. Now, you might ask, “WTF does it matter? My works are the same regardless of what the browser’s URL bar displays” and to this I’ll say that, yes, you are 100% correct. BUT having your portfolio visible in an art forum or having a DeviantART page with your artwork on it is no substitute for having an actual website. I actually consider art forums and DeviantART and sites like that in general as avenues in which you are supposed to market your work. But your website should serve as the main hub of your freelancing activity.

Not having a website just makes you look bad if you want to work professionally as a freelancer. To me it just says that you didn’t want to spare $100 and a couple of days of your time putting a website together. It’s as simple as that. Telling me that your hourly rate is $30 is not going to hold much water after that.

Besides, a website also enables you to gather a lot of data about your visitors which may even change your area of focus.

Let’s say that you’re a 2d/3d artist and you’re working on a 2d piece that you think rocks and one that, when finished, will be a good addition to your portfolio (meaning you’ll be able to get jobs by showing that particular portfolio item). You spend 30-40 hours on this thing and upload it to your DeviantART account. A couple of people say that they liked it in the comments. You continue to wait for somebody who can actually commission work from you to notice you but it never happens and you’re left to brood on what a fuckup you are because you have no idea where you’re going wrong.

Now, let’s say that you have a website. You have your portfolio on your website. You’re getting 1000 unique visitors a month. You can look at your website statistics to see what people are doing on your site. To your amazement, you make a couple of very weird discoveries.

For example you see that only 50 out of 1000 people that visit your site take a look at your 2d stuff every month. In other words, nobody gives a shit about your 2d art – the art that you spend half your time on to improve yourself. On the other hand, you see that a couple of people have tweeted about a 3d character that you’ve made and you are getting visitors from an art forum that you’ve never heard of -but one which prospective employers visit quite often – because somebody opened a thread about your work.

These things happen!

Now, I’m not going to write another word about why you should have a website as a freelancer (budding or otherwise).

Tomorrow, among other things, I’m probably going to write about why nobody gives a shit about your website and what can you do about it.

211 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Time just flew by today. I searched for freelancers for a couple of hours in the morning. I found a couple of bad ass dudes, so mission accomplished. However, the amount of horrible horrible artwork out there is just mind blowing. I mean, people were doing better 3d stuff in the 90s, and I’m not kidding.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the *talent* of these freelancers. I’ve always hated that word by the way because nothing in this life ever came easy to me. So I can pretty much say without a doubt that I’m a talentless person. Now, these guys are horrible because it’s like they are living in a vacuum. It’s like they are totally isolated from what other people are doing out there. There are all sorts of forums/websites that artists hang out on and even if you’ve only been to one of them you’d know that you should study more and work on your art before trying to find work as a freelancer; something which I don’t believe will happen for most of them, unfortunately.

While I was searching the web I made some notes on what freelancers should do, so I’m going to talk about that for the next couple of days in the hope that it may be of use to one or two of my twenty visitors.

The second part of the day was split between searching for some ready-made crash reporting software and scene texturing, lighting and rendering. The scene stuff went well; although, I must say, it takes a shit load of time to do that stuff (and I have a tiny 100GHZ farm).

I’ve found some really nice stuff with regards to crash reporting software (it’s basically a system that sends info to the developer about where the program crashed). It seems Google and Mozilla rolled their own solution called Breakpad which seems nice. Microsoft, as most of you know, have their own thing going with crash reporting. It’s not free but I don’t know how much it costs. Here‘s a nice link that contains all kinds of toolkits in addition to crash reporting stuff.

Finally I’d like to mention two fantastic programming articles that I read today. This one is about over-engineering, and this one is about automated tests. If you’re into programming, you should definitely read these.

212 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

I managed to do quite a bit of stuff today with 2 hours of sleep. I’ll be joining the world of regular people starting tonight. Here’s what I’ve managed to do:

I took care of some law related stuff. Ugh!

Created another puzzle for the game on paper. It basically aims to test your puzzle solving abilities under pressure. It needs a little bit more polish though.

Took care of some banking and accounting stuff.

I read quite a bit about the technical problems of ID Software’s Rage. Rage, from what I read, seems to have this very sophisticated texture technology. However, most PC users seem to be most vocal about the buggyness of the said tech. Specifically, due to streaming, texture pop-ins seem to ruin people’s experience in addition to derivative gameplay. It’s amazing for me to see how quickly Rage ended up being consigned to the bargain bin. However, I’m still planning to check it out in the future to take a look at its textures.

213 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

I watched MGL Winter Championship finals all day. It was pretty exiting. You can still watch the rebroadcast here, if you are a fan of Starcraft 2.

214 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Well, turns out the blackouts happen at 5am too! So much for working at night.

I did quite a bit of debugging today. Nothing really exiting. Here is a nice debugging article I found that might be useful for those who are not familiar with the concept.

I’m also testing various compression algorithms to optimize the quality/memory tradeoff. Since the environments are really dark, shadows play a key role in the game. Most of the lighting is diffuse, meaning it doesn’t cast sharp shadows; transitions between light and shadowy areas are pretty soft. Now, the problem is, with compression these transition zones create banding artifacts. Here’s what color banding looks like. I stole the image directly from Wikipedia.

I’m testing various stuff to eliminate or reduce this banding problem. However, these artifacts somehow remind me of Resident Evil 2, which I kinda like. It certainly adds to the mood in some way IMHO.

215 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Meet Top Cake. He’s a member of our extended family. He likes to sniff stuff and poop.

216 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I


I’ll update this post later today.

I’ve been trying really hard to wake up early for the last couple of weeks and a lot of studies show that waking up early is way better than waking up late, everything else being equal. Now, these fuckers that have been cutting off the electricity in this area like to do it between 7am and 6pm most of the time, which makes it impossible to get anything done during those hours (thank god the weather is fantastic and I’m not freezing these days; one less thing to worry about) . Because of this, I decided that from now on, I’ll go back to being a night owl and work nights.

One thing that I seem to have forgotten during the past couple of months is just how sunny this place is. Now that the weather is spring like, the sun is shining for the better part of the day (which is one of the reasons I love this place so much). Now the problem is I cannot see shit on my monitor when I’m trying to work on the game because all the environments are really dark. I don’t plan on working during the night in the long term, so I think I’ll be getting some curtains and moving all my stuff from the living room to my bedroom.

I was searching for a web based checklist creator to create some checklists but I just couldn’t find what I was looking for. Then I remembered Word so I searched for a Word based checklist. I found this one which I really liked.

217 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Turns out Anti-Aliasing was the source of the bug. I discovered that it was set to some ridiculously high number because of an old configuration file. After turning off anti-aliasing, I was able to run the game without any problems. But soon after, another issue (also OpenGL related) came up! I haven’t managed to find the solution to that one yet.

Textures are looking a little bit blurry to me even though most of them are between 4k and 8k resolutions. I’ve done quite a bit of rendering tests today to find a better render-time/quality point where the images appear crisper (sharper?). I think I’ve found it…

Bedtime has come. I cannot keep my eyes open, as I type these word…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

218 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

I’ve been struggling with OpenGL code, hunting bugs all day. I haven’t been very successful unfortunately so I’ll be working on this stuff again tomorrow.

I don’t know much about horror animes except Hellsing , Blood and Blood+. I wouldn’t call them horror just because they have lots of blood and monsters in them though, but that’s another topic of discussion. Anyway, I started searching for horror animes to watch for some inspiration. Turns out there are not that many out there. Hellsing was at the top of most bloggers’ lists because of its cool anti-hero and its production values. I came across another one, called Monster if I remember correctly, that bloggers seemed to like. I’ll check it out soon, when I’ve got some time.

I revisited Doom 3. I must say, it still holds itself well after all these years. It’d actually still look amazing if the textures were slightly higher resolution. I’ve studied what they did with the lighting, how they setup videos on in-game monitors and panels, the level layout and flashlight (specifically, the dust visible in the flashlight beam). The game still managed to scare the shit out of me though. Fantastic sound effects and environments. Definitely not the best FPS though (wasn’t the best in its day either IMHO).

219 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

More tidbits from Brain Rules,

Most of the events that predict whether something learned also will be remembered occur in the first few seconds of learning. The more elaborately we encode a memory during its initial moments, the stronger it will be.

You can improve your chances of remembering something if you reproduce the environment in which you first put it into your brain.

Most memories disappear within minutes, but those that survive the fragile period strengthen with time.

The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals.

220 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

This was a productive day. I’ve been working mainly on a tunnel scene. You’ll probably see it in the screenshots that I’ll be releasing soon (hopefully). Photoshop versions of textures take close on 4GB of hard disk space because most of them are 8192×8192 pixels which is 32 times the resolution of a full HD screen (1920×1080). The uncompressed textures will probably take more than 1TB space by the end of the project. God bless texture compression. Hope, I don’t end up creating a 2GB demo for the game.

Read a pretty interesting, albeit a little bit old, article called In Math Computers Don’t Lie. Or Do They?

A leading mathematics journal has finally accepted that one of the longest-standing problems in the field — the most efficient way to pack oranges — has been conclusively solved.

That is, if you believe a computer.

The answer is what experts — and grocers — have long suspected: stacked as a pyramid. That allows each layer of oranges to sit lower, in the hollows of the layer below, and take up less space than if the oranges sat directly on top of each other.

While that appeared to be the correct answer, no one offered a convincing mathematical proof until 1998 — and even then people were not entirely convinced…

221 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

I’ve spent a good deal of time on some pipeline work over the past two days. Everything’s coming together nicely. I’ll probably spend less time tinkering with lighting, rendering and various network issues that stem from problems related to these aspects in the future (knock on wood).

These power outages were very costly in terms of time lost. I still have a lot of catching up to do.

Spring seems to have come a little bit early this year, the whole of Europe is enjoying warm weather, including Foca. I’m pretty sure we’ll see some fucked up weather conditions in the upcoming weeks but it’s still nice to feel warm once in a while.

Here are some pictures. The cat sleeping on the rock is Blue, who you’ll probably remember from the Valentine’s Day post.

222 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Still playing catch up, plus the pressure tank’s engine exploded when I was having a bath!

I’ve talked about reading a book called Brain Rules some time ago, here are some tidbits from the book. Pretty interesting stuff.

Aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of general dementia. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent.

No two people’s brains store the same information in the same way in the same place.

We have a great number of ways of being intelligent, many of which don’t show up on IQ tests.

What you do and learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like—it literally rewires it.

The brain’s attentional “spotlight” can focus on only one thing at a time: no multitasking.

We are better at seeing patterns and abstracting the meaning of an event than we are at recording detail.

223 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Still playing catch up but somehow found the time to watch Doom Postmortem. Fantastic stuff. Brought back lots of memories.

224 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Another power outage for 16 hours! Second time this week.

225 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

I just focused on two related things today. One was setting up a database so that I can store information about people who pre-order the game through Paypal as per my accountant’s instructions, and the other was security. I really took my time with both of those things and the results are great. Even though I’m not storing sensitive information like credit card numbers, I’ve implemented a pretty decent amount of security stuff. After a while though, I decided it’d be über pointless to store the data in an online database because it’ll only be used for writing invoices. So everything will be stored in an offline database. Yay.

I’ve also started thinking about a different naming scheme for my posts. I really like this day counting thing, I think it gives a great perspective to all this stuff I’m doing but I’m thinking maybe I should name the posts according to their content and include the day counting stuff *inside* the post. That’s just a thought though, nothing’s final.

226 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Here’s a little rant about software bugs:

Today it’s virtually impossible to become a “power user” in almost any 3d software without getting intimately familiar with that software’s bugs. The reason most power users have to develop workflows and pipelines *around* the software that they use is because the managers of said software are too greedy!

Yes, the developers are NOT lazy or incompetent, it’s the managers! Any software is bound to have bugs, how few or how many is usually determined by the manager, not the development team.

Here’s how the software cycle works:

The firm releases the first version of their software

People buy the software. Start complaining about the bugs.

“Whole team -2″ people start working on the next version of the software the day after the release of the first.

Those 2 developers start fixing bugs and releasing patches.

A month later they join the other people who have already started working on version 2. By this time the managers have all but forgotten about version 1. They don’t want to spend money (developer time) on fixing bugs when they have a huge number of *features* to add.

Soon the company releases version 2

People buy/upgrade the software. Start complaining about the bugs (both new and old)

You get the idea.

And this cycle continues as long as the software’s on the market. Managers create feature lists and set the deadline for the new version. Developers rush to deliver features (half baked mostly) on the top of an already flawed structure. In the end, what the customer usually ends up with is a fancy marketing brochure and crappy software that can’t deliver what’s required of it in a consistent and stable manner.

Here’s the reason for this rant: I’m having nothing but trouble with some 3d software that I’m using right now and it’s pissing me off.

What do you do when you have a problem with your software? I usually go to that company’s site before doing anything else. So, I go to this company’s website to see if other people are experiencing the same problems. I search the support forums and browse the results. In one topic a customer asks whether or not he’s doing something wrong, because he’s not getting the result he wants from the software. Here’s a paraphrase of the next guy’s answer, “You are not doing anything wrong, it’s a known bug. It’s been there for the past 4 years.” To this I just say, WTF! WTF! WTF!

One software company that I really respect on this issue is Sidefx. They are the makers of Houdini. It’s one of the oldest pieces of 3d software on the market. Sidefx releases a new build of Houdini ever y day! You can see which bugs they’ve fixed, what they’ve improved, etc. And from participating on their forums I know that they take care of bugs as soon as they arise. I’m not planning on buying Houdini anytime soon, but if the need arose I’d buy it with peace of mind, that’s for sure.

BTW, just saw that they released a new version of Houdini. There is a nice video on the site about the new version. Pretty interesting stuff. Here’s the link.

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