227 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

I don’t know what happened yesterday but the end result was me not having any electricity for most of the day. Keep in mind I also use electricity for heating so I couldn’t get out from under the sheets for the better part of the day.

I managed to read an ebook about level design. I wasn’t expecting to learn anything from it and frankly I didn’t. Wish I had another book on my playbook but that was the only light read. I also managed to do a tiny bit of work before the laptop’s battery emptied and that was it. Shit happens. I’m considering getting a couple of UPSs and a diesel generator but that’s because I’m pissed. I’ll probably spend my money on something else in the end.

I’ve been playing catch-up most of the day today. I’ve bought a tiny script for the online store. It’s a little bit incomplete, it lacks some features (the features list was kind of vague, so I decided to gamble), so I may end up not using it. $5 is not much money and I can cannibalize it to my pleasure.

After a bit of searching, I found this company called Angelleye. The owner, if I’m correct, has created a great looking Paypal library. I’m planning on checking it out tomorrow.

Found a bug in one of the 3d applications that I use, it pretty much made me waste an hour. Sent an email to the company, I hope they fix it soon.

I’m still reading the book called 999. One or two stories per night, depending on the word count. After reading a couple of short stories that made me want to beat my head against the wall, I finally read a decent one two days ago called Darkness. Ghosts rule. Plain and simple.

228 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

FUCK! Power outage for 16 hours! 16 HOURS!!! Fuck fuck fuck fuck.

229 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

I worked on 3d stuff most of the day. The scene I worked on will be featured in one of the screenshots from the game. I was supposed to release screenshots this week but couldn’t do it. Time flies so fast for me it’s unbelievable. Anyway, I plan to release three or four screenshots first, probably within 5-6 days.

My art pipeline is really complicated. That’s why it isn’t easy for me to just release some screenshots. At the beginning of the project I had to choose between a simple art pipeline and a complicated one. By simple I mean runtime calculation of lighting/materials. My pipeline on the other hand is pre-calculated. In other words, I pre-calculate the effects of shaders and lighting. That way, the look of the game stays consistent between different gfx cards, operating systems and platforms and – more importantly – performance (aka frame rate increases). Not all parts of the game are pre-calculated though. But those parts (levels), because of their layout and content, don’t tax the graphics card – not for now at least!

230 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

I spent a couple of hours cleaning and organizing today. I got tired of working at a messy desk. Now, everything looks nice and clean.

Just as I was starting to work, I came across an application called Chandler (which made me immediately think of Bing). It’s basically a desktop GTD application and since I’ve started using GTD methodology, I though, I’d better check it out. Not the best name to give an application IMHO, but the application itself rocks and I fell in love with it. I’ll start moving my stuff from Nirvana to Chandler tomorrow probably. It’s also open source which is great. Not that I’ve time to tinker with the source but it’s nice to know that I could if I had to. What’s even more fascinating is that I’ve learned that there is a book written about the making of the Chandler called Dreaming in Code. Here’s some info from the book:

Why is software so hard?

Hard to make well. Hard to deliver on time. Hard to use.

Our civilization runs on software. Yet the art of creating it continues to be a dark mystery, even to the experts, and the greater our ambitions, the more spectacularly we seem to fail.

Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software sets out to understand why, through the story of one software project — Mitch Kapor’s Chandler, an ambitious, open-source effort to rethink the world of e-mail and scheduling.

I spent three years following the work of the Chandler developers as they scaled programming peaks and slogged through software swamps. In Dreaming in Code I tell their stories.

231 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

I managed to do a great deal of work today.

First of all, I’m halfway done with my GTD (Getting Things Done) adaptation. GTD is the name of a book by David Allen. It’s about personal productivity or, as Allen calls it, stress-free productivity. The book has a really huge and fanatic following and there are billions of articles on the net about GTD.

I’ve used GTD in the past (5-6 years ago, I think) and the whole approach worked pretty much as advertised. Now is the time to use it again. There are billions of online-offline productivity software programs that implement the principles. I’ve tried quite a few of them over the last couple of days, both paid and free. I decided to stick with my pen/pad combination and a free service called Nirvana.

I’ve completed one more dark ambient song for the game. It’s pretty creepy like the other ones.

The online store needs a registration page (by order of my accountant). I’ve searched for a simple order form for an hour. I think I’ve found a script that’s really nice and simple.

Another reference picture hunt for old (80+) naked women. God I’m depressed. Really really depressed. I should just name the game Gravity and put one of the pictures that I found on the cover. Horror scale: Amnesia x 10 billion. Instant worldwide hit. 1 million copies sold (in 3 hours).

I’ve brainstormed about another CG trailer today and pretty much liked what I’ve came up with. It’s pretty much a fantasy at this point but I’d love to do another one, that’s for sure.

232 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Errands took up the better part of the day today.

I’ve been getting some XBOX 360 port requests lately, so I decided to check on that again and saw not much has changed on the Microsoft side. There is a ridiculous file size limitation (500MB) for indie games on their online service. I don’t own a console so can’t remember what it’s called. I can pretty much say that a XBOX 360 port of the game, even in the distant future, is very very unlikely.

I’ve signed up on Safari Books Online. There have a pretty nice library of 18000+ books. $22 a month gets you 10 book slots. Pretty neat.

233 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

After a crazy amount of brainstorming I’ve finally nailed the ending of the whole trilogy. And I have to say it’s pretty awesome. Very sentimental. This game, Chapter 1, has some sadness in it, not a crazy amount but hopefully just the right amount. Chapter 3 on the other hand will probably contain a lot of sadness, especially now that I’m pretty confident in the story itself. All the important pieces are there now. I’ll have a good night’s sleep today.

The biggest challenge by far for this chapter is the environment. The first few levels of Chapter 1 take place in a regular office. How do you make an office scary? How do you space the thing out? How cluttered is it going to be? How real or how simplified is it going to be? That’s the MAJOR challenge for me. I mean, I really lose sleep over this, I’m not kidding. I don’t want anybody to say, “Fuck, I just came back from work, I boot this game and what do I see? A fucking office!” I’m sure nobody said anything like that when they were playing F.E.A.R, which took place in an office too. Hopefully, that’ll be the case on Chapter 1 as well.

Today, I got really distracted by money issues. I don’t have much money evidently and it really puts me off balance when I need to make important financial decisions. It leads to a lot of thinking and a lot of procrastination.

My sleep schedule is almost set. I no longer sleep till three in the afternoon because I made a strict commitment to waking up at 8 no matter what time I went to bed. I also tried to take my first nap today and it was a success. 40 minutes of dreamless sleep.

These days I’m reading a short horror story compilation book called 999 before going to bed. The first story in the book was really horrible. A complete waste of paper nothing more. The story takes place in Russia and has the most moronic zombies in it. Just plain lazy writing and storytelling. As usual, you’re not really sure if it’s a good story or not until you read the final word.

After that I decided to skip reading the stories in order and choose them based on their page count and titles. Second story was better, thank god. It was called Knocking, if I remember correctly. And yesterday, I read a story from Stephen King. It was called Road Virus Heads North. It was about a creepy painting (can’t say more, after all it is a short story). Stephen King has a writing style that just flows and the story was good too.

It always makes me happy to read a good story before going to sleep.

234 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Things are not going the way I want them to in my dealings with freelancers. I’m spending quite a bit of time writing emails. Not really happy about it at the moment.

I’ve been researching all kinds of productivity tools for the past couple of days. There are all kinds of ridiculous apps out there that are suppose to help people be more productive and organized, it’s unbelievable. For example there are online to do list makers that cost $9.99 a month! Let me repeat, $9.99 to make your to do lists online!

I like time tracking applications, so I’ve tried quite a few of them. So far I like an app called Rescuetime. It tracks what you do on your computer all day long. It’s a great piece of programming that lets you see objectively where your time is going (totally non obtrusive BTW). It’s free, which is nice. The paid version provides more detailed stats and I’m planning to get a license but I’ll procrastinate over it for a bit because it’s quite expensive, $72 a year if I remember correctly. If your time is worth $20/hour, you’ll stop being in the red if you can save just 3.5 hours. After 3.5 hours, all the time you save is added to the profit column. That’s one way of looking at it. The way I’m looking at it currently is; $72 a year for a time tracker, no fucking way!!

235 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

One topic that I really researched on my two-day attempted-vacation was working productively from home. I’ve been working from home for quite some time now, so you could say that I’m pretty familiar with the territory. Actually I’ve never worked in an office (knock on wood) so a home office is the only office I know.

I think the most important element of productivity when working from home is having a clear cut schedule and sticking with it. I’ve almost never had any schedule all these years. I’ve been fairly productive but at what cost? When you’re working from home it’s all too easy to stay up working until morning then sleeping till noon. Then repeat.

Without any schedule, you get really used to having this very weird lifestyle that no one can really sync with and the first thing out of the ordinary throws you off balance, such as when something comes up and you need to be somewhere at 10am. Now, if you’ve been going to bed at 8 in the morning for the past two weeks, well too bad…

The primary reason for not having a schedule or not following one? Feelings of guilt.

– I’ll update this post, later today.

Here’s the update:

I don’t really know what I was thinking when I wrote the last line. Wait, actually I do; it appears I wrote a whole paragraph before going to bed yesterday that’s supposed to connect feelings of guilt and scheduling. Reading it with a clear head shows me that I have utterly failed to connect the two dots. I was probably trying to say something like this:

Knowledge based work is demanding. Not every day will go according to plan. Sometimes, you’ll be going backwards instead of forwards. Sometimes you’ll need to erase everything and start again from scratch. The complex nature of the work will fuel your habit for procrastinating, which in turn will fill you up with guilt. In order to lessen the feelings of guilt and the effects of procrastination you’ll try to work longer hours. Pretty soon you’ll start to see your life as all spinach and no desert (three days in a row!), because you’ll be working all day every day (and probably not getting much done).

So it’s probably best to keep work and leisure separate, have clear work hours and resolve not to let the work eclipse other parts of your life. That’s about it. Easier said than done!

236 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

I worked on the hand rig of certain someone for the most part of the day. That hand’s appearance will probably scare the shit out of a quite a lot of people. But as usual spinach first, desert later.

The remaining part of the day was spent on looking at networking solutions for games. Raknet still seems to be the go-to software for quite a lot of developers. I’ve applied for an evaluation and received the files. I couldn’t look at the code yet but I’m really curious.

I wrote some stuff about working from home but I’m about to faint as usual so I’d rather post it tomorrow.

237 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Well, turns out resting in peace is a lie!!!

I slept for 30 hours in the past two days. I don’t call it resting though. Resting should be like, sitting in front of your TV watching something without any feelings of guilt. Your mind should be at ease. It’s like eating your desert after finishing your disgusting spinach. In other words, true rest is to be found in guilt-free play. No guilt-free playing equals no resting.

As long as the thing between your ears refuses to let go of constant worrying, panicking, and planning, you are not going to relax and enjoy yourself, no matter how much free time you have. That’s been the case with me over the last two days. Ample time, no relaxation. I slept, read some and beat a couple of guys at Starcraft 2, and that was it. Two days have passed and I don’t feel any better at all.

I need to make some changes to the milestones I set for myself. Instead of weekly ones, I’m going to start making daily ones. That way, I think I‘ll actually know and finish what I’m supposed to do on any given day and feel good about it.

Another fucked up thing is that I don’t have anything to do except work on this game. I mean there is very little social life out here on the mountain. Donkeys usually keep to themselves. And when I’m in front of the computer, I don’t have anything else to do other than the occasional game of Starcraft 2. I don’t even want to play any games.

Today marks the beginning of my 120 day countdown. Countdown to what? Countdown to completing a game called Shadow of a Soul: Chapter I. My goal is to finish the game 100% then playtest the shit out of it until the release.

Today also marks the day that I’m starting to spend shitloads of money to the point of pretty much no return. No return simply means this; if I fuck up this game, then it’s guaranteed that I’ll be paying its bills for the next 5 years or so (plus saying goodbye to my car). Honestly though, I’m not really concerned about it. I’m 3 gazillion times more concerned about putting out a great game on Halloween.

Today I did some modeling and a shitload of writing and video recording. Writing and video recording is for setting guidelines for freelancers. I tried to make my requirements and expectations crystal clear so that no loss of time and money occurs due to miscommunication.

238 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Resting in peace II

239 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Resting in peace.

240 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Some updates about the site:

CSS minification, it appears, caused some errors. It’s fixed now.

CDN is working again. It’s been offline for some time now due to some problems and me not having any time. I re-activated it yesterday. Everything is peachy now.

On the game front things are going nicely but I’m starting to feel more and more tired everyday. I think I need to take a break for a day or two. I have no idea how to take a break since I practically live in front of the computer but I’ll try to figure something out.

I got myself some social media marketing books today. Who knows, one day, through the use of very complicated and mystical marketing techniques, I may bump my visitor count up to 21 (twenty one)!

Totally unrelated stuff:

5 days of warm weather and what do you know, spiders decided to take leisurely strolls around the house. I love animals but I just hate spiders. I’ve got a no-questions-asked-kill-policy for them. If I see one, I stop whatever I’m doing at that moment and go kill it. So my message to all social-media-friendly spiders out there is, get the fuck out of my house!

241 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

There is one thing that I’d like to say about learning C++ (or any language) from books: If you don’t understand something, blame the book not yourself.

Despite what some Amazon reviews would have you believe, there is no magic book on the market. I think of most programming books as incomplete works. In order to get a full view of the topic, just get a few decent books – not just one or two – get a few, and jump back and forth between them when you get stuck.

An ideal C++ book should focus on teaching concepts with very simple examples, and most of the concepts in C++ can actually be taught in this way. Stay away from books that over complicate their examples or ones that focus on a single application. Single application books usually start building an app from the first chapter and continue to do it all the way to the end. I hate that kind of approach because you can’t use those books for reference. You can’t just dip in and read a couple of pages and then close the book.

Also, find an application that you’d enjoy modifying from Sourceforge and begin reading it’s source code for a couple of minutes a day. It’s really rewarding to see all those nonsensical walls of text becoming more and more meaningful as your knowledge of the language increases.

Here are four books that I like, don’t forget there is no magic book, so get as many books as you can

C++ Primer – Stephen Prata
Ivor Horton’s Beginning Visual C++ 2010 – Guess who wrote it
C++ All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies – John Paul Mueller
Starting Out with C++: Early Objects – Tony Gaddis

242 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Wrote code all day today.

I wrote some tips about learning C++ by yourself but it’s in dire need of some editing. I’ll post it tomorrow.

243 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Today started really really bad but ended up being a very productive day. I thought about the game’s story a lot, probably 2-3 hours of walking around looking at index cards pinned on the wall and writing stuff. I was a little bit unsure about the ending of the game. Now I’m pretty sure that it rocks. Listening to death metal (Opeth) music turned out to be really inspiring when thinking about evil stuff.

I decided to do a little bit of forum posting. Two minutes later, I got banned from a Mac forum. That stopped me cold. Got straight back to work.

244 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Rant: It always amazes me too see how shitty open source software websites are. After doing all that work for free, you’d think that these folks would spend at least couple of hours on web design (or get a free template) and most importantly write about what their application does. Preferably in more than 10 words. End of rant.

I’ve been waiting for everything to finalize before releasing screenshots from the game, that’s why you don’t see any screenshots on the site. However, I decided that if I’m to release any screenshots, I must stop changing/polishing things over and over again. I wanted to make sure that what I release as a screenshot will end up in the final game. Now, I’m pretty certain about some stuff. So I think that’s a nice thing.

245 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Here’s a quick update.

I don’t know why but I was very distracted today. Just couldn’t focus on work. Still, I managed to do some good stuff somehow.

My struggles with Gametrailers continued until I figured I wasn’t supposed to upload my stuff. I deleted the trailer and contacted Gametrailers by email yesterday. Couple of hours ago, the trailer went live. The last time I checked 1800+ people had watched it. That’s a pretty decent number for me. Too bad it didn’t stay longer on the first page because of constant updates. It’s still on the what’s popular page though. I don’t really know how their comment system works but I commented on the trailer with the link to this blog. If any of you folks are members of Gametrailers, I would appreciate an up-vote for my comment. That way people might come here and I may reach 21 visitors a month!

I’d also appreciate someone posting a news item about the existence of this game on Evil Avatar. They have a news section run by the community. I didn’t want to spam that forum myself so I’d appreciate it if someone else could do it for me. Preferably someone who is a current member. If you could post a link to the trailer and this blog and maybe grab some info from the press section, that would be swell.

This puts an end to my latest marketing/begging cycle. Marketing and begging go hand in hand for me. Nothing new on that front.

246 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Good old days. My first 3d experiments!

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