Release Day! Come Get Your Alpha Build! | The Brick Dead Project

Woo-hoo! On this penultimate episode of The Brick Dead Project, we’re once again giving away video gaming goodness! Through the miracle of hard work and Search, Grandpop has manage to combine classic arcade action with modern game styles, all without resorting to pixel art or chip tunes.

I did it! And, lemme tell ya something, if you think you know everything that’s inside this latest build from reading these articles, you’re in for a great many surprises.

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover and I’ve reserved myself one last article in this series as a wrap-up, so let’s get started. First thing’s first. Below you’ll find download links for your platform of choice. Complete instructions covering controls, gameplay, and technical issues can be found after the page jump.

Break Out Your Dead Prologue – v0.11 Alpha

*Updated 5/1/14*

WindowsMac OSXLinux

*Update 3/5/15 – v0.2 Alpha coming soon with improved graphics, code optimizations, and more!*

This Far, No Further | The Brick Dead Project

We’re all about drawing lines in the sand on this eleventh episode of The Brick Dead Project, a journal of how one grandfather went from “Let me just see what this Unity thing all the kids are buzzing about is” to “I’m a’gonna make a video game!” To read previous entries in this series, click here.

I expected it would take two weeks to create the ‘advanced’ version of Brick Dead. That was two months ago. Sure, it was an optimistic estimate based on nothing more than the three weeks worth of experience I had in Unity, but it was still quite off the mark.

The delay was starting to take its toll. I had fallen into “The Midgame Blues”. The start of the project is fast and exciting. In hours, sometimes even minutes, the virtual world under you fingertips would change in new and radical ways. However, once those initial features and environments are created, things slow down a great deal. You may spend hours fussing over the rotation of particle system or aligning a texture no one will notice. A weekend will disappear chasing a memory leak so far under the hood that it never truly caused any real problems. You move from creating worlds to drawing buttons. It was where the inspiration met the perspiration. Did you know that video games don’t just magically pause and pop-up a quit menu when you hit escape? Well, of course you knew that, but had you really thought about how much time someone spent fussing over that feature most of us take for granted? Main menus get all the glory, pause menus barely get a second thought.

Being a one-man show didn’t help. Going solo is undoubtedly a double-edged sword. On the plus side, you get to do everything your own way completely without compromise. The downside is that you HAVE to do everything yourself, even the stuff you hate (In my case, that turned out to be working on 2D art like texturing and UI elements). When faced with a chore you’d rather not do, procrastination becomes a huge problem. Particularly when there is an infinite world of possibilities only a mouse-click away.

Biofuels Bupkis? Ethanol Use May Not Be Saving Anything

BiofuelLifeCycle1

It’s not actually a cycle, ya know?

Forbes has an interesting article up citing many studies on the ramifications of using corn-based ethanol as a replacement for gasoline. This rides the coattails of recently released reports from The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IIPC) showing that by the time crop cultivation, nitrate fertilizer effects, and water usage is taken into account, the switch to ethanol may be not be better for the environment than traditional gasoline.

From The IIPC’s 2014 report:

“Biofuels have direct, fuel‐cycle GHG emissions that are typically 30–90% lower than those for gasoline or diesel fuels. However, since for some biofuels indirect emissions—including from land use change—can lead to greater total emissions than when using petroleum products, policy support needs to be considered on a case by case basis”

Worse, the reallocation of corn from a food for both humans and livestock has led to an increase in prices. Obvious corn-based products like cereal and sweeteners have been affected over the past several years as well as foods derived from corn-fed livestock such as milk, eggs, and meat. This cost increase has not been limited to the U.S. either. Seventy percent of the world’s corn imports come from the United States.

From Forbes:

“In 2014, the U.S. will use almost 5 billion bushels of corn to produce over 13 billion gallons of ethanol fuel. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon gas tank with ethanol can feed one person for a year, so the amount of corn used to make that 13 billion gallons of ethanol will not feed the almost 500 million people it was feeding in 2000. This is the entire population of the Western Hemisphere outside of the United States.

In 2007, the global price of corn doubled as a result of an explosion in ethanol production in the U.S.”

While the IIPC’s findings have already created a firestorm of controversy over the use of biofuels in general, and ethanol in particular, it is sure to be just the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg as the debate heats up over the next couple years.

For more information, I’d suggest checking out Scientific American’s article on this topic.

Lost Warhol Doodles Recovered from 30 Year-Old Amiga Computer Disks

2_Andy_Warhol_Campbells_1985_AWF_475pxHow ‘bout that whole ‘being famous’ gig, eh? People pawing through every last bit of your possessions decades after you were even relevant to popular culture. Kinda great or kinda creepy? Maybe a little bit of both.

Submitted for your perusal, dear reader, the strange case of Mr. Andrew Warhola. Once a juggernaut of pop culture for creating stylized paintings of already popular stuff, now a carefree footnote of a bygone era overcrowded with formerly famous footnotes. And while Mr. Warhol has left this planet for the realms of the dearly departed, he, like many of us, leaves behind a bevy of belongings fit for scrounging and exploitation of individuals seeking to cash in on legacies of yesteryear.

From the press release issued by The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University:

“Warhol’s Amiga experiments were the products of a commission by Commodore International to demonstrate the graphic arts capabilities of the Amiga 1000 personal computer. Created by Warhol on prototype Amiga hardware in his unmistakable visual style, the recovered images reveal an early exploration of the visual potential of software imaging tools, and show new ways in which the preeminent American artist of the 20th century was years ahead of his time.”

The images “rescued” include a Venus with a third eye, a stylized self-portrait, and, predictably, a can of soup.

Andy Warhol.; Once considered an savant artist who became popular by painting popular items and personas. Now just another exhibit in… The Otaku Gallery.

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


BAH-BAH-BAH!!!
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...