Guitar

July 16th 2015 · Read More · No Comments

120bpm on Homage a Tarrega. Still pretty steady. Failures are an even split between left hand finger preparation (i.e. not being able to mentally keep up with what my fingers should be doing next) and physically doing the left hand chord stretches. Some of them are hard. Notably missing from the aforementioned failures: right hand technique. That requires discipline to even acknowledge, let alone address.

I started practicing an adaptation of June (Barcarolle), by Tchaikovsky. Lovely piece. I definitely need a new piece in my practice buffer, I’m getting a little weary of the current set.

Out of the habit

July 14th 2015 · Read More · Comment(1)

I am most definitely out of the habit of typing out my thoughts. It’s easy to write about guitar – that’s relatively non-confrontational (COME AT ME GUYS) but the current state of Australian politics seems so insane it’s hard to even read about. There’s a part of me that’s itching for a fight with someone other than the straw men in my head, and there’s another, much saner part that knows this is an abyss from which nothing useful will emerge.

So, guitar is going well. I moved up my default tempo from 100bpm to 110bpm, and it still feels pretty good. I’m making actual progress on the complicated passages. There’s an interesting contrast with jogging. When I jog, I absolutely cannot set myself goals. Goals lead to increased expectations, pushing myself harder, trying to go further and faster, more pain (and satisfaction of course when I meet these goals). And inevitably: excuses, procrastination, disappointment, less actual jogging. If my goal is maximising my exercise gained from jogging, it is much simpler to not push myself, to allow myself to walk if I feel like it (which I never do, but it’s nice to have the option), to view the jog as thinking time. And it’s good thinking time. Much of “Rime Royale” was designed while jogging. Most of Silent Shinobi theory-crafting was done while jogging.

But with guitar, I do want to push myself a little, towards greater mastery. I know when I’m playing “for pleasure” it isn’t quite as good as it should be. I’ve definitely erred too far towards discipline in the past which has lead to less playing, but it’s also possible to err on the side of not enough practice and getting bored (particularly if I don’t have new pieces to learn).

Which is to say, thanks to the metronome I’m enjoying playing Homage a Tarrega quite a lot at the moment.

Day off work

July 7th 2015 · Read More · No Comments

Von is sick today, so I’ve taken the day off to look after the girls while Von sleeps it off. I am rather tired. The girls have drifted off to sleep in front of the TV (I’m not proud) and I finally have a little time to work on Silent Shinobi.

Okay, yes, I may be procrastinating a little.

Guitar

July 1st 2015 · Read More · Comment(1)

I’ve been playing rather than practicing for months and months now, and I finally got out the metronome yesterday, set it at 100bpm, and had at Turina’s Homage a Tarrega. It’s a very tough piece, lots of different techniques (fast arpeggiation, big stretches, lots of hammer-on and pull-off ornaments, all over the neck, forced harmonics) and actually quite a bit of fun, and very revealing, to play with a metronome to keep me honest. It made me realise that there are some passages where I have *absolutely no idea* what the rhythm is supposed to be (strictly speaking) because every version I hear has different rubato. Back to the score!

I am designing

June 30th 2015 · Read More · No Comments

I’ve been working for over a year now on my board game “Silent Shinobi”, playtesting every week at lunchtimes with the Irregulars, then reworking the design ready for the next playtest. I’ve never gotten to this point before (the game is playable and fun) so it’s quite exciting, but it’s also daunting as the next question “what next?” keeps popping up.

We had a particularly good playtest yesterday. I had reworked the rules to make them more elegant, but the result (while extremely clean and simple) was confusing.
The idea “take these elements of the game and make them work the same” was good in theory but lacked thematic flavour, and it’s simplicity didn’t make up for that. This is why we play test!

More importantly, a new mechanic that I introduced to add more awesomeness to the game did indeed add more awesomeness to the game at the expense of board complexity and time blowout (the game took 90 mins, and my target is one hour at most). Also, this was supposed to be the introductory scenario, and it did not feel introductory. I love the idea and flavour of the new mechanic, but I think it will have to be radically reworked.

My current big worries about the game are:
– low variance: you never win or lose by much. This can result in reduced replayability as the game always plays out in a similar way.
– catch-up features: sometimes a player watches as the other Ninjas do awesome stuff while they don’t make any progress. It’s a cooperative game, but this is still a feel-bad moment.

Day 27-29

March 29th 2015 · Read More · No Comments

I caught a cold on Thursday and was knocked out for most of Friday. Still, I managed a decent amount of work on “Can’t Stop Shooting” over the last few days, and got the game into a pretty decent state.

It’s a game. Which is to say, there is a level, it has a goal, and you can win or lose. On Saturday I created a level editing workflow: create the level using rectangle blocks in Inkscape; run through a python script to turn the SVG into a plist (an XML format used by Swift/Objective C for storing data); import the level into Xcode, and add it to the list of levels accessible through the menu using another plist. The ability to create levels in Inkscape reaped immediate rewards: for most of this month I had just two random blocks in the level to test collisions and laser bouncing; now I have an actual level that can be navigated, and can easily create more.

I also fixed the multitouch movement model, and added a push if there’s an explosion and you’re near to it. No burning things yet.

image1(1)

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with how I went this month. I made an iOS game and learned a lot, and there’s lots to do and it doesn’t seem hard at the moment (mind you, I haven’t had to do any optimising yet).

The code is very prototypey. It needs some fairly major refactoring, and I never did get the hang of how MVC was supposed to work with the SpriteKit way of doing things. There are lots of hardcoded constants that need to be configurable if this is going to work for devices other than the iPhone 5s.

Back to real work tomorrow!

Day 21-26

March 26th 2015 · Read More · No Comments

Hmm, missed a few entries there. Monday and Tuesday were, as expected, a total write-off. I did manage a bit of work on Silent Shinobi, adding a damage system. I’m concerned that it’s too complex, but it does good things in distinguishing the Ninjutsu skills (which, in my game, are Fighting, Hiding, Acrobatics, and Spying.)

I did a good chunk of work yesterday on changing the control system to a “turn & accelerate” thing, but actually I spent most of my time doing graphic design because I enjoy that too. I replaced the default space ship with a UFO style thing of my own design, added a shadow, and designed the steering wheel and accelerate button. I was particularly happy with the latter:

MoveButtonOff MoveButtonOn

The “turn and accelerate” model is now working, more or less, though it doesn’t cope with multitouch very well yet.

I also appear to have gone a bit steampunk.

Today: finish the movement model, add an acceleration push from explosions, add win condition to level (which I think will be “get to a specified area”), have multiple levels.

Next stuff to do in general: add burning, and allow objects to be damaged by nearby burning things.

Day 20

March 21st 2015 · Read More · No Comments

I got the HUD working and I added a nice metal plate background texture to make it easier to see when you’re moving. The issues with the HUD (which took all day to solve) turned out to be the way the code was scaling the default image area. I simplified the code and got it all going.

This weekend I don’t expect any progress at all: Von & Jen are in Melbourne for a weekend off, and I’m looking after the girls with Dad. We did a trip to the Opera House for baby proms (much enjoyed by the girls) and now we’re waiting for Dad to show up.

Day 19: Sheesh

March 20th 2015 · Read More · No Comments

I didn’t make much progress on “Can’t Stop Shooting”, mostly because I was working on Silent Shinobi. A good piece of advice for game design is not to get bogged down in graphic design – just whip up quick prototypes using pencil and cardboard and playtest lots. If the game is fun without the pretty graphics, it’ll be fun with them.

I’ve never been able to do that, unfortunately. In principle my card graphics code (svg + python) can be used for lots of different games (hi Steven!). I spent a lot of yesterday getting the graphics of the latest incarnation nice and pretty, knowing that I’d probably change it all again later. It is pretty, though.

Anyway, I did get the pause functionality working properly. It’s possible to pause individual nodes in the scene (thus pausing animations), and setting the PhysicsWorld speed to 0 means it doesn’t update the physics.

Today I’ve been trying to get the HUD working, but I’m struggling with misbehaving anchor points and view sizes. Still not sure what I’m doing wrong. I’ve got the health bar working, at least. Crikey this bit is fiddly.

Day 18: Still Nope

March 19th 2015 · Read More · No Comments

Okay, much less excuse yesterday, but I still didn’t manage much thanks to procrastination. I implemented a faulty pause button for “Can’t Stop Shooting”. It stops all my code from doing things like exploding stuff but doesn’t stop the physics engine from moving the ship (technically it doesn’t stop you from shooting so +1 for theme, but it stops damage from happening). I’ve gotta do some reading to work out what to do about that.

I don’t feel too bad about it because bumming around the house playing Rocksmith and eating chocolate was definitely part of my mission statement, but I’m keen to do something today. First up though: Silent Shinobi. The card size is still a little too large and I have to nerf the permanent ninjutsu cards to try and make the final challenge actually challenging.

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