It’s all in the focus of the story.

I’ve discovered something recently. While playing games on my PC, I’ve realized how dissatisfied I’ve been. I think back to all the times I’ve had wonderful fun playing games and it comes down to two things. Great story, or playing with other gamers.

Let’s focus on story. Some of my favorite games were old school, story driven games. Fallout 1 and 2. FF 2 (released in Japan as IV). Dragon Warrior I. Star Wars the Old Republic. Warhammer 40k: Spacemarine. Bastion. What do all these games have in common? A strong story! So, why do I not get any satisfaction playing games like ANY of the Elder Scrolls games? Or Fallout 3? The problem I’ve found with recent “sand box” games is… There’s too much. The story gets lost in the sand box. I jump in the game, and start playing, but get lost. There’s so many side quests and people to talk to, that the main story just gets lost. I quickly lose interest and move on. A few months later, I’ll read an article about how good the story is, or talk to a friend who played the game and give it another shot. And… right back where I was. Lost with no story. Fez has an awesome story, but once you actually start the game… It’s just a platformer. Lost interest about 15 minutes in.

It’s gotten to the point that I’ve almost given up on games. I hardly have time to play anymore with Rory around anyway, but it was making me a bit sad. But tonight, I pulled up a game called Alan Wake. Woah. Sucked me right in! A horror mystery. No side quests. Just a great story line. Can’t wait to continue this one!

So, how did I figure out it was the story that was driving my interest? I read books. A lot. Why? Because I love the stories! And the games I like basically let me live the story. I don’t need all the side quests to pull me off track. I don’t need to talk to every person in a large city just to make sure I get all the interesting quests while getting side tracked. I just hope once I finish Alan Wake that it won’t take me so long to find the next one!

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4 mile run/walk after a nice 1/2 mile swim yesterday.

Yesterday I got out my wet suit again. I’ve only been in it one other time, about 3 weeks ago, when I jumped into Lake Washington. I managed to stay in there about 10 minutes before I got too cold and my head started hurting. Yesterday after visiting family, I jumped into Martha Lake. I swam the short distance across the lake and back, so about 1/2 a mile, in about 25 minutes. I wasn’t going for any kind of speed, just feeling out the suit and my technique. I was very happy with the time, though.

Today, I dropped A off with R at the Burke-Gilman Trail, then went down the road to Matthew’s Beach. Unfortunately, I left my garmin at home, so I don’t have any official distances. I think I jogged about a mile straight before a cramp started in my side. I ended up meeting A around 2 1/2 miles up the trail. I ran about 3/4 of the way to her, so I was very surprised. I guess that’s what happens when you lose 35+ lbs! We mostly walked with a little jogging back to Matthew’s Beach and headed home.

The Park to Park Swim is coming up fast, 1.4 miles. I figure if I can knock 5 minutes off of the 1/2 mile I did, 1.4 miles would take me around an hour. That feels like a good target to hit.

Beat the Blerch is coming up at the end of September. I’m okay with my jogging speed. Now I just need to do endurance. I think A and I will probably hit the track on Tuesday and each do a timed mile to see where we are at.

Also, I’m hoping to do a 56 mile bike ride sometime between Park to Park and Beat the Blerch. That way, I can get all the half ironman distances done within a month. Then, maybe I’ll do one or two actual half ironmans next year. Monday, we are meeting our PEPS group and I think I’m going to ride my bicycle there to get a little seat time in.


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DigiPen Audio Symposium

May 31st, I got to go to the DigiPen Audio Symposium! I had a great time and learned a ton about using computers and other hardware to create Audio.

“: Live Orchestra Meets Highly Adaptive Score”
This presentation showed how the interactive audio for the game Peggle2 came about. It was a really interesting look about creating a demo of what Guy Whitmore wanted to do with the audio, selling it to the decision makers at PopCap, implementing the audio technically, and how all the sounds fit together musically. I really enjoyed this talk because it not only looked at implementing the audio, but it ran the gamut of how to add audio to the game.

“From Speaking Statues to Ventriloquists to Vocoders to Autotune: A Brief History of Technology and the Expressive Voice”
Perry Cook took us on a tour of music creation “hardware” starting, of course, with the voice and the creation of language through mimicking other animals. The history behind sound is amazing and as we approached modern time, it just got more fascinating. Perry gave a demonstration of a new electronic instrument he created called a “C.O.W.E.” (Controller, One With Everything) that he made of spare audio parts he had lying around. He blows into the top like a bagpipe changer and it has buttons on it where the chanter would have holes. But there, the similarity ends. The instrument also has motion sensors in it so he can manipulate the sound by moving the instrument around.

“The Art and Science of Aural Cinema”
With Richard Karpen, we listened to several different types of music. Everything from Beethoven to Stevie Ray Vaughn to modern computer generated compilations. It was a very interesting look at different kinds of music, what they have in common, and how they differ. One of the more fascinating instruments shown was a đàn bầu, a single string instrument from Vietnam. It’s amazing how much variety can come out of a single string instrument!

“Procedural and Interactive Sound Design and Music I and II”
ArenaNet sent out 3 people who work on different aspects of audio for GuildWars2.

The first person works as an audio programmer. He talked about the different aspects of adding audio to games and the challenges some game frameworks present. He is currently creating a new audio server for Unity because the Unity audio server was not flexible enough for him. I’ve just started playing around with Unity myself, but I’ll leave that for another post 🙂

The second person is a music composer, mixer, and editor. He showed several ways of capturing new sounds (like a bucket of plaster and a plunger, or driving down I-90 with the sun roof open and sticking things out the sun roof for different wind effects). Then, he showed how to process them into various effects.

The third person bridged the two previous speakers. He said his basic job is to get the two other people to work together to get good audio into the game. But he also talked about how all three of them sometimes wear the same hats, all of them programming sometimes, or creating effects other times.

“Choirs of the Future? A Brief History, State of the Art, and Projections About Singers and Technology”
Perry Cook came back a second time to talk about some of the directions audio is going into the future. He showed several recent concerts where each instrument was a computer hooked up to a speaker. Each person at a computer was composing in real-time and together they were generating a song. It was really fascinating. He is also working on a “song book” that he holds in his hands that contains a tablet, microphones, cameras, and several recorders. He then holds a concert where he is the only singer, but he uses the “song book” to record him self while he is singing and then plays it back during the concert. This has the effect of multiplying his voice so it sounds like a complete choir is singing.

Over all, it was a fascinating look at music and audio. I’m really glad I went and learned a ton. Now I have a new list of things to research. I’m also really looking forward to next years symposium.

– beowuff

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Audio! Games! Programming!

I’ve always been interested in audio, but wasn’t sure what direction to take. I love music, but I don’t think I have the patience for creation. I’ll always enjoy playing around, but not sure I could make a career out of it. So, what do I enjoy? Well, I spend way too much time playing video games. I’ve always thought about getting involved with making games again (I was a software tester for a couple of games in a past life), and it seems like there’s a little bit of a shortness of programming audio engineers.

So, where to go from here?

I have a mentor at work who’s been helping me play around with audio files and get some experience in C. It’s amazing how much more I’ve learned about computers with only a couple of months of C experience.

I’ve also just downloaded Unity to play around with creating a game. It’s geared towards new users, so I’m thinking it’s a decent way to get some experience while I work on my programming. Eventually I’ll probably go with either the Unreal Engine or Cryengine. Both of these heavily use C++. Once I’m feeling more comfortable with C and get some object oriented experience with Ruby and Python, C++ shouldn’t be too hard to pick up.

Even if none of this works out, the C foundation is an excellent place to be for audio. All the low level calls for pretty much any program are written in C.



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Kids and tech.

Time to start scrounging for that Trash 80 and C-64 for R.

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So much to do! So little time!

So many things to do! Now I’m trying to prioritize all these things!

– Raise R.
– Keep up to date on security issues (mostly for work).
– Learn to be a better programmer (see more below!).
– Learn about audio and how it works with computers.
– Practice the guitar (until I eventually get my new bass…)
– Training! (Swim, Bike, Run!) I’d really like to do another triathlon.
– Play more games.

– Programming:
Ruby (use at work). Great language for scripting admin type work.
Python. I’m feeling right now that I should have started with Python instead of Ruby. I enjoy Ruby, but the more I play with Python, the more I like it’s structure.
C. I’ve learned more about they way computers work with a week of C then just about all other time combined. So powerful! So simple! So dangerous! 😀 And very useful for fast, low-level stuff, like audio processing.
C++. I’ve not really dabbled with this language much. But I see it all over the place. And games! I think this will be my eventual path.

I feel like I’ve been really thinning down the things I want to do, but I still have a pretty big list. Where is the time going? How do I prioritize? Here it is, almost 22:00 and I have a million things I’d like to do before I go to bed. I guess I need to think about what can I do now, to give me more time later…

So, I guess I’ll drop Python for now. I use Ruby at work, so I at least have a scripting language under my belt. I’m having trouble with OOP (Object Oriented Programming) and I am hoping Python would help me out with that, since it is much more structured than Ruby.

I’ll continue with C for now. I’m finally starting to “get” pointers and it will help me with the audio programming. So I’ll continue with that as well.

The guitar I’m playing about twice a week. That’s not too bad, I guess. I think I can continue with that as well.

Training I have to start fitting in. I’ve lost about 35 pounds in less than 4 months. Not too shabby! But I haven’t been training. I have a “mud run” coming up on June 7th and feel completely unprepared. Then, I have a 1.4 mile swim in August and a half marathon in September. I’m also hoping to fit in a half century ride in the middle so I can at least have done the half iron man distance this year. So, where to fit it in? Running once a week shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Swimming will be tricky, but with the evening’s staying light, maybe I can start fitting in a lake swim after work once a week. This is a bit tricky with riding the bus to work, though. Green Lake is okay for about another month. Then, I wouldn’t mind swimming in Lake Washington. I guess I can probably take the car to a different park and ride to get to work, then hit the lake on the way home. And finally, the bike. That’ll either be Saturdays or Sundays, depending on A. I don’t think it’ll be too hard to do.

And that leaves… Play more games. I think this might have to suffer. It sucks because I use games as my wind down, but I just don’t see how I’m going to be able to fit even as much gaming in as I do. Maybe that C/C++ and audio experience can lead to some game development so I can get my fix.

And… I need to blog more. Well, it’s a work in progress 😛


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A day of the Doctor.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. I’ve only recently, as in the last year or so, become a giant fan of Doctor Who. I remember as a kid watching reruns of the 4th Doctor and, while fascinating, I always felt I started in the middle of the story.

Some friends of mine have been fans for a while of the new series. I watched a few christmas specials with them over the last few years. After the last special, I started watching the Classic Doctor Who on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.

The monsters were cheesy. The jokes were dry. I loved it. Amy wouldn’t watch much of these, but when I got caught up with the new series, she got hooked too. Something about Eccleston’s Doctor really drew me in even further.

Today, I’ve decided to start off things right with “An Adventure in Space and Time.” A history of the beginning of Doctor Who. Next up will be the last episode of the new Season 7, followed by the brand new 50th Anniversary, “Day of the Doctors.”

Why Doctor Who? The laughs. The Science Fiction. The monsters. The drama. This is great story telling. Thank you, BBC, for taking a chance in the ’60s. And again in the ’00. And thank you, William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Richard Hurndall, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, and all the other Doctors, actors, writers, producers, and everyone else who helped bring this to life. It’s a great reflection of our times as each series is made.

I’m looking forward to listening to the radio shows next!

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