Archive for the Wednesday Update Category

Quick Shot

Posted in Wednesday Update with tags , , , on June 4, 2009 by Dan Amerson

Despite attempting to be more productive and treat my time as more valuable, I haven’t carved out enough time to update the blog well. However, I do have a cool picture from my Vegas Vactation to share. While we were there, Theresa and I met up with Damon and Mel who were up for the weekend from LA. We decided to hit the Minus 5 Ice Lounge for some fun. Here’s the pic.

Dan at Minus 5 Ice Lounge

Dan at Minus 5 Ice Lounge

The walls, ice.

The glasses, ice.

The furniture, ice.

Those furs, well, they are fur. If they weren’t, you would stick to the ice which probably wouldn’t work well.

Side note, Damon spins electronic music, mostly house and trance, in southern California. If you’re looking for some good tunes, check out DJ Skywalker.

Apparently, the ice glasses are made in New Zealand and shipped to Vegas. I’ve yet to figure out the economics of that. dba


Bittersweet Return

Posted in Life in General, Miscellany, Video Games, Wednesday Update with tags , on April 15, 2009 by Dan Amerson

After missing several Wednesday Updates, I’m back to blogging. Unfortunately, I have sad news to impart on my return. Let me first say that I’ve always been a proponent of Microsoft. Whenever anyone spoke ill of the Xbox 360, I was there to defend it. My launch 360 has served me well since November 2005 until… well, tonight. Red Ring of Death for me, and I’m outside the warranty.

[Update] I went looking for my new 360 today, and I’m not sure what to buy. If anyone has suggestions, let me know. I can save some bread and get an arcade since my current HDD is fine. However, I’ve heard that I want a bigger HDD now that I can load games onto it, so I was thinking I should get an Elite with the 120GB HDD.  I then  heard there was a bundle coming soon, and I would like Fable II which would effectively be a $50 discount on an Elite. I just don’t know when that bundle drops. Advice would be appreciated from those who have done this shopping of late.

I guess tomorrow is a good time to shop for a new one with a bigger hard drive. dba

The Lo-Def Post

Posted in Life in General, Video Games, Wednesday Update on January 15, 2009 by Dan Amerson
  • 1080p is bad.
  • Fallout 3

You Can’t See It

Someone on a mailing list of friends asked about HDTVs the other day. I gave what is part of my standard answer. If you’re more than 2 feet away from the TV for each 10 inches of diagonal, 1080p is a waste of money. You can’t see it. Someone asked what I meant, so I wrote up the math. It’s worth sharing here… so that someone on the internet can tell me I’m wrong. I’m sure I forgot to multiply or divide by 2 somewhere. 🙂

Visual acuity is measured in arcminutes per line pair. 20/20 vision has an acuity of about 2 arcminutes per line pair. That means that for alternating pairs of black and white lines occupying a 1 degree angle of your field of view, you can see 30 pairs at 20/20 but 31 pairs would resolve into a bit of a gray mass.

What does that mean for your TV? If a pair of scanlines on your TV subtends an angle smaller than 2 arcminutes, then you likely can’t resolve them from each other. Your eye will average them together. Since the subtended angle is a function of your distance from the TV, the farther you are from the TV, the bigger your TV needs to be. Let’s do the trig on that.

2 arcminutes is .0333 degrees. For a pair of scanlines subtending an angle, theta, the following formula holds:

Tan(theta/2) = heightOfScanline / distanceFromTV.

For .0333 degrees, the minimum resolution, this means .000291 = heightOfScanline / distanceFromTV. Once we know the height of the scanline, we can calculate the maximum distance we can sit from that TV and see that scanline at 20/20 vision.

Next up, how tall is a scanline? It’s heightOfTV / 1080. Since widescreens are 16:9 aspect ratios, we can use simple trig to tell us. A TV can be divided into two right triangles with angles of 90, 60.6, and 29.4. By some trig,

heightOfTV = diagonalLength * sin(29.4).

So, our scanlines are:

heightOfScanline = diagonalLength * .49 / 1080

If we recombine all that, we get the following formula for the minimum TV size at a given distance to see 1080p. Just plug in about how far you are from the TV to know if it’s worth your cash.

diagonalLength = .641 * distanceFromTV

Hint: It’s likely not worth your cash to get 1080p.

The Wasteland Beckons

I’ve been playing Fallout 3 quite a bit. There’s plenty of reviews on the matter for you to read. I just wanted to give a public shout out to Bethesda. It’s a great game. I think they’ve really captured the spirit of the first two titles and brought them into this generation. There are some rough edges, particularly in the first hour, but I’m overall thrilled and impressed with the title. I’m really looking forward to the downloadable content as well since I’ll probably finish my playthrough around the time it drops.

Thursday is the new Wednesday. dba

Crisis on Multiple Builds

Posted in Video Game Development, Video Games, Wednesday Update with tags , on December 18, 2008 by Dan Amerson

We had a major blockage in our continuous integration system last night which caused yet another Wednesday Update delay. I spent yesterday afternoon pretending I was an air traffic controller for our source control system. I’m still here for a short one though. I promise some real content next week.

  • Gamebryo Alpha
  • Book Club!

Coming Soon!

The next version of Gamebryo is scheduled to hit alpha this Friday. We’re working hard to get things finished to alpha level which is the other part of the reason this post will be so short. The next version is going to be an amazingly huge addition of functionality to Gamebryo, so keep your eyes here. I’ll be talking about it in the next few weeks as we get closer. PM is keeping me tight lipped for now.

Not a Fan

We have a book club here at emergent. We recently read Gene Wolfe’s first two volumes of The Book of the New Sun. It was fairly highly recommended, and even includes praise from Gaiman and Le Guin on the cover. I, however, am not a fan. I do not recommend it. I read the first volume and quit. I think it’s that bad. If you do choose to read it, I highly recommend reading the appendix of The Shadow of the Torturer first. When I got to it after investing several hours in the book, I felt betrayed by the author. It’s the type of info that should go into a foreward.

I can’t really justify more time today. Sorry. dba

Harried At Best

Posted in Video Game Development, Video Games, Wednesday Update with tags , , , on December 11, 2008 by Dan Amerson

Due to a little crisis last night, Wednesday Update is slightly delayed again. No worries. I consider Thursday morning to count.  Onward.

  • Last Week’s Demo
  • Dragon Quest IV
  • Gamebryo Feature Brainstorming
  • Scotch

So… Ah… It Was at 2PM

If you check last week’s update, you’ll notice that I mentioned a demo I was doing at 3PM last Sunday. It was really at 2PM. I hope I didn’t lead anyone astray.

In any case, it went off smashingly well, literally. I closed out the demo breaking a 10lb. chunk of ice which shattered nicely in front of the crowd. Prior to that, we had several really successful demos. Mr. Santos, who just started offering classes at our school, gave a demonstration of some Capoeira Angola techniques which was incredibly cool. I’m debating if I have time between everything else to take some classes with him on Wed. nights. We’ll see.

There are some pictures of the demo. However, the camera in question had to fly off to New England this week before I could lay my hands on the memory card. I’ll try to get them posted at some point.

Zen Gaming

It’s totally accidental that Sony tried to create Zen Gaming as a genre today. I swear I was thinking about this in the context of Dragon Quest IV last week. I was playing it on the DS the other night, and I was frustrated at how slow paced and boring it was. I figured I’d give it a couple of hours and give up. This odd sort of calm settled in after a while though. I developed a rhythm with the game. I’d wander for a while. Get in a random encounter. Analyze whether I should worry about the monsters. Set people to attack, and then zone out or talk with my wife. It became incredibly satisfying to play a game that was so familiar and understandable that I didn’t need to devote my whole attention. I can just flow through it. I’m now 15 hours into things and loving it. It’s a weird switch, and it made me wonder if perhaps that familiarity of design is what makes the Dragon Quest series so appealing.

The New Frontier

I had a really great meeting with the engineering team at Emergent last week. We talked about possible features for the next version of Gamebryo. (Note that this isn’t the one we’re currently working on, but the one after that.) There were some good themese that came up.

  • Continued investment in multithreaded techniques. This extended both to Floodgate as well as higher latency systems like …
  • Better large world streaming and LOD systems. e.g., shader LOD and separate mip chain streaming.
  • Animation system improvements. Better transitions, IK, etc.

There was a bunch of other stuff, but I figured it was worth posting the major themes here for two reasons. One, some readers may be Gamebryo users. I’d love to hear ideas from you. Post a comment. Are we thinking about the right stuff? Two, maybe you’re working on an engine of your own. You’re probably thinking about future versions. Are you looking at similar themes, or not? Maybe you’ve solved some of these problems, or maybe you’re really focusing on tessellation and D3D11.

Blended or No

I’ve really taken a liking to whiskeys of late. However, drinking single malt scotch is expensive, so I’m thinking of looking for a more affordable blend that I like. Any suggestions? I tend to prefer less peaty scotch whiskey.

Between whiskey and zen gaming, I’m pretty mellow now. dba.

Excitement Forthcoming This Weekend

Posted in Wednesday Update with tags , , on December 3, 2008 by Dan Amerson

Wednesday Update this week is the short edition. I’ve only been back from vacation three days. As I’ll note, I’ve spent it diving through emails. I don’t have any exciting work items to discuss.

  • Vacation
  • Martial Arts Demonstration

Days Off Equals Work On

I took a few days off from work before Thanksgiving. I had a great time vacationing at Lake Oconee. I splurged and spent a couple of days on the club level of the Ritz there. I had a great time. The only problem with taking time off is that coming back to the office just equals more work. I still haven’t caught up to all the email that accumulated over three days. I hate email.

Breaking Things

I don’t talk about my martial arts much despite the blog description, but…

This weekend, my dojang is giving a demonstration here in Raleigh. Everyone should come check it out. We’ll have the black belt candidates doing a demo and arnis demonstrations from Master Bullock. I’m planning on possibly a weapons demonstration and a breaking demonstration. The demonstration will be at Stonehenge Shopping Center on Creedmoor Rd. around 3PM. It’s part of the holiday festival, so there will be things going on all day. Come on out, get some shopping done, and watch me shatter things. Can you ask for more?

I’m aware that you could ask for more, but it’s a rhetorical question. dba

I Have Good Reason

Posted in Wednesday Update with tags , , on November 20, 2008 by Dan Amerson

We had guests on site at Emergent yesterday, so I didn’t get to my Wednesday update. It’s coming a day late, and I’m not too upset at the delay. I’m being reasonably consistent. For today:

  • Lolcats
  • Used Game Markets
  • Texture Atlas Creation
  • Vacation Next Week

They Have Gone Too Far

A colleague sent this link to me. I’m not sure I really need to add any comments on the matter.

Monopolies Bad

There has been a bunch of discussion within Emergent about the used game market and whether it’s good or bad for the industry. I figured I’d post my stance just to help stir up a bit of controversy.

  • I’m in favor of a used game market.
  • I’m not happy with the current state of things where Gamestop has an effective monopoly. I want another national chain to enter the market and drive down the margins.
  • I think it’s great to do things like the Gears of War 2 map pack that add value to a new copy but still give used purchasers a secondary avenue for obtaining that extra value.
  • I find suggestions that games be sold crippled unless you buy them new deplorable. e.g., I don’t agree with Nintendo’s decision to not sell the Wii Speak Channel at all.

I think the most important point in my stance is the fact that there’s currently a monopoly in used games. Right now, the margin on used sales for Gamestop is huge, and that leads them to push used sales. If they had competition that drove that margin down, the market should center on a point where the margin for new and used sales is equivalent which would give us better liquidity in the market and no reason for a retailer to push used sales any harder than new.

[Edit: Joel points out that the Gears 2 maps are not being offered as DLC. Even so, I still like the practice since the maps are additive and not part of the core experience.]

Pack Them Tightly

An old colleague pinged me today asking if I knew of any available texture atlas creation code off the top of my head. I didn’t, so we spent a few minutes coming up with a simple algorithm that isn’t necessarily optimal but works and isn’t hard to implement.

  1. Sort your textures by size.
  2. For each texture decreasing by size, try to insert into your atlas.
  3. For the insertion.
    1. Describe the atlas as a quad tree.
    2. Initially, you have only one node representing the size of the atlas.
    3. As you insert a texture, you create a split that creates three empty cells and one occupied cell.
    4. Each insertion scans the tree and inserts a texture into the atlas into the smallest cell which will contain the texture.
  4. Algorithm is done when your smallest texture left won’t fit. Start a new atlas.

It’s not an optimal algorithm, but for textures close to square, it should give reasonable results with simple code. My question to you, dear readers, is whether you know of a better way possibly with code snippets online. I’m sure it would be appreciated.


I’m headed off on vacation next week. I’ll have my laptop, but the odds of a post are lower. Wednesday update will be back the first week of December.

Starburst rule. I like strawberry the best. dba.