And Now for Something Completely Different: Blue Lava!

So, we’re all familiar with lava, yeah? Beautiful, bright red glowing rivers of molten rock that make great desktop backgrounds and create inescapable trails of hot, fiery death. How ‘bout we mix things up a bit with some new blue flavored lava!

No trick photography here! These photos are from the Kawah Ijen volcano in East Java, Indonesia. Ijen is actually packed full of sulfur. What you are seeing here is a river of molten sulfur that has been set alight, so it is as poisonous and delightful smelling as it is beautiful.

It gets weirder.

The Ijen crater, picturesquely depicted below with its one kilometer wide acidic lake, is the site of an active sulfur mine. Moreover, it is one of the last mines where the work is all done by hand. Ceramic pipes tap and active vent in the volcano to capture gasses and condense molten sulfur where it is dumped on the shore to cool into the yellow rock. Miners then use hand tools to carve out chunks of sulfur weighing about 180 pounds. The sulfur blocks are then carried 980ft up to the crater rim and then back down the volcano to complete the nearly two-mile trek to a sugar refinery before getting paid. Wages in 2010 were reported to be about $13 per day. The 200 miners working Ijen are estimated to bring in 14 tons of sulfur a day, a mere 20% of Ijen’s daily sulfur output.

The Kawah Ijen volcano is not actually hot enough to cause the sulfur to combust on its own. The occasional outbursts of blue, molten sulfur-lava are caused by stray sparks or dropped torches from miners carrying on their duties throughout the night.

Make It Loud! Make It Random! | The Brick Dead Project

Welcome back for the tenth installment of The Brick Dead Project: Adventures in Ignorant Game Creation! We’re getting the party started for this anniversary episode with music and sound effects. Sound effects? So… What am I supposed to use for screenshots?

We got the sights, but what about the sounds? Sure, it’s satisfying to blow up skeletons, but how much more satisfying would it be to hear their little bones rattle while we do it?

Fortunately, I actually had a leg up in this area. I had already gathered a not insignificant library of public domain sound effects from previous GUO Crazy Projects. Even better, I was familiar with my tool of choice: Audacity. Audacity is great! It’s simple, powerful, has just enough features, works exactly the way you’d expect, and, my favorite feature of any software package, it’s free.

Remembering my earlier experiments of just throwing new assets into my game without any real thought or plan, I took to crafting my soundscape ahead of time. It was a smart decision. I had learned more than C#, Unity, game design, and vector math. I had learned that doing ANYTHING without a little thought ahead of time frequently leads to frustration and waste. Also, my old creative nemesis, Force, would return to haunt me. What does Force sound like?

Moar Ballz! | The Brick Dead Project

We begin this eighth episode of The Brick Dead Project, an experiment in creating a video game with nary a clue to our names, having completed our most challenging and difficult feature yet.  We continue our feature presentation with the quest for easier work.

The time since declaring BDProto1 as complete and moving on to create Brick Dead’s more advanced features has been grueling. It was time to throttle back and take on some of the easier challenges on the wish list. Our next task: I need some new balls.

The original concept for Brick Dead involved moving what were traditionally power-up items into a player controlled ‘Mana Economy’ and invoking them as different spell types. Knowing that a lot of people now prefer gamepad’s for control, I figured I’d just use the Xbox gamepad’s face button color scheme to guide the create of four different ball types. As a bonus, I’d have a stylish, color coded control scheme.This original concept had already helped me over an early creative hump: What color is Force?

So… What next? Well, we’re left with red, yellow, and green. A fireball is kind of a no brainer for this sort of game, so let’s start there.

Goat Simulator Has "Bah" Its Way Into My Heart

When it's pouring rain outside and your bored of torturing Kerbals from Kerbal Space Program, you decide to check out You Tube for a bit and see what's new in gaming. Little to my surprise I see a bunch of You Tubers with new videos all on Goat Simulator. At first I'm like, "What the heck? Goat Simulator? How is this going to be fun..." I spoke too soon...

Free Resources for Making Your Own Games, Textures, Models, Music, and More

Alight, I‘ve been promising to make a list o’ linky for y’all for some time now. Time to get started! If you’ve been following along with The Brick Dead Project, a chronicle of first foray into video game creation, you know I’m pretty far from an expert with only a couple months under my belt. Still, the resources provided from open source projects, retail demos, and generous artists have enabled me to create some pretty spectacular results. Now, I’d like to pass on some of my favorite places for software and inspiration to you.

Being a noob in the scene, this is far from an exhaustive list. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments.

A word of warning: If you’re looking to move beyond the hobbyist level and create something you can sell, pay careful attention to the licensing agreements for your software/assets. Terms of use on this stuff can range from public domain, to requiring a nod in the credits, to a percentage of your revenue.

Tomb of the Ragdolls | The Brick Dead Project

You still with me? That previous chapter of The Brick Dead Project, a journal of my trials and tribulations while making a Unity game, sure was quite an ordeal. We could both probably use some therapy after that one. No time now! There’s vidya gamin’ work to do!

I had little enemy dudes. They had someplace to go. They knew how to walk. And, finally, they could be killed. Now they just needed someplace to live. I had just the abode in mind. Remember that “Make Your Fantasy Game” demo from xiaolianhuastudio? The one that inspired the whole undead motif in the first place? Well, it came with more than just fences and tombstones. It came with full blown tombs!

I selected the largest and most exquisite, of course, for my new minions. But it wasn’t quite exquisite enough. Designed with mobile platforms in mind, I was going to do some touch-up work. The textures were up-rezed and sharpened compliments of GNU’s free, open source Photoshop replacement GIMP. From there it was off to a magical little utility called CrazyBump.

Now, I know I’ve mentioned normal or bump maps a couple times previously, but let’s just take a sec and give both this tech and CrazyBump their due.

A normal map a transparent layer that sits on top of your texture. Rather that drawing detail in the traditional sense, it dictates how light reacts to the surface. If you’ve ever seen a metal panel in a modern game and noticed how the creases and rivets react to light and look 3D but aren’t modeled with polygons, you’ve seen normal maps in action. Rocks, trees, dirt, all kinds of bumpy stuff that appears to have three dimensional detail, but doesn’t. If games modeled every little scratch or divit, your video card would burst into flames. This allows fine detail work to look like it’s in 3D without it needing to be in 3D. It can make a huge visual impact on what might be a blah-looking flat surface. Normally (Er, no pun intended), the artist creating the model and textures would either over-model the item in question and take the data from there or, alternately, ‘paint’ a normal map himself, working with light and shadow as opposed to colors. In my case, I had textures, but no high-poly model or inclination to try making a normal map by hand. Enter CrazyBump.

CrazyBump is, in the most scientific and technical terms, magic. CrazyBump takes any texture you throw at it, ask you one question that basicly amounts to “Is this an iny or an outy,” and spits out spectacular looking normal maps seconds later. CrazyBump also refers to itself in the third person and calls the user “Puny humans,” so… Ya know, bonus points there. The free, 30-day trial has thus far saved me an amazing amount of work and my wallet’s gonna cry when it’s over. Which reminds me:

if (gameBudget>0) pimp Amazon shopping link to support GUO Crazy Projects

Properly normal mapped, the BigTomb, as I had taken to calling it, was a good deal more spectacular, but it still needed more.

Ragdoll and Back Again | The Brick Dead Project

Hiya! Thanks for coming. Today we enter the dark, middle(?) chapter of The Brick Dead Project, the true to life account of a bored grandpop on his ham-fisted attempt to create a video game without any of the prerequisite skills or talent. You are reading part seven of an ongoing series. To catch up on previous events, click this link.

The skeleton on the screen burst into a spasm of elongated polygons and resumed walking. I slammed my fist down on the desk. What was once a rare occurrence had become a weekly outburst. I kicked the desk, spinning my chair around to face the Mrs. on the couch behind me. She lowered her tablet a half-inch to peek over it at me.

“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” I stated with a warble in my voice.

“You can stop if you want.”

“I don’t want to stop!” I roared back. “I’m just not smart enough to keep going,” I added silently to myself.

I stomped out of the house and began weeding the front yard. Screw this crap! I had real work to do.

It would become known as “Ragdoll Week” at the GUO homestead, a dark time referred to only in hushed whispers while making the sign of the cross to ward off ill fortune. It was the second time I quit this project.

The Dead Walk | The Brick Dead Project

Things were going great for The Brick Dead Project, an ongoing series retelling one ignorant man-child’s quest to bash together a video game through excessive use of Google. With the core concepts created, everything from here on out should be a breeze, right?

Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Things had, for lack of a better term, sucked for the past week.

I had left behind the decorated and polished environment of my Level-Home for new vistas. I needed to create a new, larger playground to build and test my ideas for the more advanced game mechanics. I bashed together a bare-bones boneyard without much thought. Experience had shown me that most of what I did at first would end up reworked, rewritten, or just flat-out removed. What I hadn’t experienced what how bad it would feel to end up back in an ugly, barren setting. It’s not one of those things that just pops into your head. It sneaks up on you. Grinding on you hour by hour, day by day.

Environment, such as it was, established, I had taken to rewriting the character controller. The original version used co-ordinates in the level to restrict player movement. From the onset, I had attempted to keep as much of my code portable and modular as possible so it would be easier to redeploy to other levels later. I wanted the movement limits restrained by invisible level geometry, like a bounding box, rather than hard numbers that needed to be tweaked every level. My first rewrite failed rather spectacularly, flinging the player to and fro at the whims of my hastily created raycasting move controller. I scrapped every bit of it and went back to the Internet. I re-researched and rewrote the whole thing again. The second time it worked. And it felt bad. There was a little ‘float’ or ‘slide’ in the original character controller that, while not intentional, made the character ‘flow’ even when pressing against the unseen border. This new raycast controller stopped you dead at the movement limits. It was exactly what I wanted. And it sucked. I scrapped it and went back to the original yet again.

After spending a so much time spinning my wheels on the character controller, I needed to make progress. Granted, a couple days may not sound like much when you think about the hundreds of people spending years to create your favorite store-bought games, but in comparison to my absurdly fast build time on Brick Dead thus far, it felt like I had wasted a lifetime. It was time to start work on what I expected to be the biggest feature I had yet tackled: Automated enemies; The Creeps.

Starting Up The Shield | The Brick Dead Project

In this fifth edition of The Brick Dead Project, an exercise to see how many times I can write the same introduction without repeating myself, we travel onwards from the comforting confines of the first prototype and into strange, new territory. To catch up on previous posts in this series please click here.

They say the best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it and I had become so very immersed in learning Unity. I no longer played games, I attempted to make them. I no longer watched movies, television, or viral videos, I watched classes on Euclidian geometry. I no longer browsed my RSS reader packed full of the latest happenings of the day, I read message forums dedicated to users of the Unity engine.

And yet, I still wasn’t altogether sure I was learning anything. I continued to struggle with understanding the scripting reference manual. Every idea I had left me cluelessly blinking  at the screen until I broke down and fired up a search engine. Every command I cobbled together still erupted into a series of red compiler errors the first time it ran. Sure, things had gotten slightly easier by virtue of knowing how to properly ask a question to the Google God, but true knowledge still eluded me.

Well, I have learned to add a comment to the damnedable curly brackets to save time in counting ‘em later when I inevitably forgot one.

The lack of knowledge, while concerning, wasn’t enough to dampen my drive. I mean, I had just created a game! A rough game, a short game, but a game none the less. And quite a handsome one to boot. I mean, in three weeks I had gone from this:


To this:

BDproto1 2014-03-12 21-58-50-57

Wait… Three weeks? Was that right? It felt much, MUCH longer. Well then, what am I so worried about? I mean, who could be expected to retain much in three weeks, right? [Insert nervous chuckle here].

Alight, there’ll be plenty of time to feel inadequate later. We’ve got bigger fish to poach. Case in point: The three most important players in a Breakout-style game are the brick, the ball, and the paddle. One of those is lagging woefully behind in the looks department. That shield’s gotta go!

Review: FTCE Flashcards (Android) – Um… Sorry, Words Can’t Describe the Horror

When yours truly is left without a catchy title to plug in, you know we’re going to some deep, dark places.

Welcome to the world for FTCE Flashcards, an Android app designed to help teachers study for the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations. Yep, we’re going to the top of the educational food chain today with a study aid designed to help those who make the kids study study. And if you think that sentence was awkward, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this may be out longest review yet. Let us join the Mrs. on her photographic safari into the world of FTCE Flashcards as designed, created by, and sold from BH Inc, the folks behind!

Remember, you can click on any image to view a larger version or even right-click/save image to create desktop wallpapers to scare away literate folks.

First stop, Google Play where this app has 55 five-star reviews and two three-star reviews.