Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Coal Story

I recently ran into an interesting little short on the web that I feel I must share here.

Produced by the advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather in China, Greenpeace brings us a Coal Story.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's Ze Brush!

Or ZBrush, to be exact.

Pixologic's remarkable 3D modeling tool isn't suited to games (at least, not until our computers can handle millions of polygons per object), but the ability to freely sculpt without the need to keep track of vertices and quads is an artist's dream.

Plus, it's a LOT cleaner to work with than clay.

From Models

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When Alcohol and Classic Gaming Collide

I've been a fan of the Wii Virtual Console since day one, but one thing that always irked me was the lack of some of the more beloved N64 classics, such as Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon, Banjo Kazooie, and of course, Mario Party. So, with the help of my newly purchased hard drive, I recently set out to download the full collection of Nintendo 64 roms and emulators.

It was with Logitech game pads in hand and a lot of free time last evening that my roommates and I set out to relive the glory days of Mario Party, but it was by turning it into a drinking game that we had a real event on our hands.

Game Rules
-Every time Toad speaks: Everyone drinks
-Every turn: Lowest dice roll drinks
-If lowest dice roll is tied: Both players drink twice
-After a minigame: Losers drink
-When a player gets a star: Everyone else takes two drinks
-When a player encounters bowser: Take a drink
-When a player lands on a Bowser tile: Finish the drink
-At the end of the game: Winner finishes their drink

Friday, August 14, 2009

For Everyone Who Ever Died of Dysentery...

Courtesy* of xkcd.

Really, you should read it.

*For 'courtesy,' read: stolen and reposted from...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Generally I refrain from simply reposting another person's expostulations, but today I'm going to make an exception.

I was reading some question and answer forums earlier today when I encountered an interesting question, something that all of us, I think, can relate to. A user, "socrates," asked: "Why is it embarrassing not to have romantic interest reciprocated?"

"I just called a girl from one of my classes, and invited her to lunch on Wednesday. She said yes, but it was clear that she's only interested in friendship. Embarrassed that my romantic interest wasn't reciprocated, I then acted as though I had only meant it as a friendly invitation all along.
This is completely irrational. There's nothing wrong with being attracted to someone, and her lack of interest doesn't mean that I'm somehow inadequate as a person.
So why is revealing a non-reciprocated romantic interest so embarrassing?"

This got me to thinking; what IS all the fuss about? Surely everyone has been in this situation at some point or another, and yet we still allow ourselves to be embarrassed and discouraged by something so ultimately minor. The responses were... varied, as you might imagine, but then I came across a jewel. The user "mendel" cut right to the heart of the issue:

"The general topic you're asking about is what a symbolic-interactionist sociologist would call impression management. (You might recognize the name Erving Goffman, whose book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life basically addressed the general ideas around the specific case you're wondering about.)
According to the symbolic interactionists, your face (as in "saving face") is the public image you are trying to impress upon others, and in doing so you're actively trying to manage their perceptions about you. As much as you can control this you create a definition of the situation that you try to impose on others (or, at least, have a consensus on).
When you ask a girl out and she imposes her own definition of the situation (friendly lunch, not a date) on yours, all of a sudden your impression management mechanisms fail; you need to create a new face on the fly without letting her know that you're doing so, and also try to make it seem like what you'd done up until that point was consistent with the new definition of the situation.
That's hard to do, and it means that a lot of the bits that make up your public face don't work so well -- you'll say awkward things, stumble on thoughts and speech, and worry that you'd said something before the definition of the situation changed that you can't fit in with the new definition. When that happens, you think that the other people in the conversation see the "real" you instead of the impression you are managing -- you feel like you've lost control over your public face. Everyone does impression management, but no-one wants to admit that they do, and when it's obvious that it's happening it feels like you're missing some important social skills, and I think that's where the embarrassment comes from. It's not socially acceptable to expose your impression management mechanisms but you're afraid you've had to do so when the definition of the situation changed.
(On the other side of the coin, if she's smooth and catches what's going on, she'll let you find your way around the new definition of the situation and ignore any past actions that are incongruent with it, and once the two of you have implicitly agreed on the new situation it feels a lot less embarrassing because you can be engaging in normal impression management again.)"

I know that's a lot to read, especially considering that it didn't come from yours truly, but if you got this far I have to ask: How close did this hit to home?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

About a Squirrel

Following the theme of cute animal videos (I sense divine retribution for this in my future), I would like to present a rather heartwarming video about a big squirrel and a little squirrel.

It's impressive how much a bit of music and some narration can transform some otherwise boring amateur footage into a veritable Disney-quality tearjerker.

Stealth Cat is Stealthy

Truth be told, I've never been much of a fan of anything involving cats or kittens (excepting, of course, this one); too much cuteness is the equivalent of kryptonite to my shriveled heart. Even so, on rare occasion something will pop up that is just too rich to pass up.

Enter the Stealth Cat:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Music of Blueberry Garden - Daduk

Playing Blueberry Garden was a tremendously satisfying experience, but left me wishing there was more. While there may not be a sequel in the works, there's no reason that Daduk's music can't be enjoyed. Featured below is Daduk's album "Et Apres," hosted by and available for download. Thought-provoking piano arrangements reminiscent of Phillip Glass, how appropriate in a game so much like The Truman Show.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blueberry Garden

Erik Svedang. Game designer and instructor at the University of Skövde in Sweden.

His newest game, Blueberry Garden, was released earlier today on Steam, and at the very affordable price of $4.99 I said "Why not?"

After stretching the 1-2 hour game into a solid four hours, enjoying each moment as much as the last, I'm left wondering: "Why isn't there more?" This isn't a criticism of Erik's work, though, but a question aimed at the game industry at large. Why is it that a few small indie developers can breathe life into an otherwise dead industry, when the large developers can't? Certainly it's not for a lack of creativity; and while profit margins dictate the newest games on the shelves, the majority of them feel empty by comparison.

Take World of Goo, for instance, developer 2D Boy's tour de force. Wildly successful, yet so very simple. And here we have Blueberry Garden: for the first time since Jason Rohrer's Passage, I was genuinely moved by a video game (not, perhaps, in exactly the same manner, but the effects were the same). As a bird-like creature set loose in a strange, unfamiliar world, you must explore - and build - within the Blueberry Garden to find the source of your troubles and escape into the sky. With a fully realized ecosystem, simple platforming gameplay, and a powerful piano arrangement by Daduk, the Blueberry Garden truly is a wonder to behold, as compelling as it is beautiful.

The demo is on Steam, and is absolutely a must for anyone who would argue the validity of games as art. And please, consider purchasing the full version; the gaming world needs more developers like Erik.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dancing Teachers

The title of this post is rather explicit, but it might not hurt to give a little bit of information before delving into the content.

Teachers are strange creatures. They are well educated individuals who have been tricked into wanting to spend nearly all of their waking hours with children of varying ages, but this is only a small portion of what makes them so strange. A truly complete analysis may never be conducted, but I will say this:

As evidenced by the 30 second clip below, there is something incredibly entertaining about a secondary school teacher dancing.

The addition of music was especially artful in the way it matches nearly ALL of the movement.

Still, nowhere near as incredible as the Robert Englund lookalike that was my high school algebra teacher:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dancing with an Iron Fist

Following the theme of incredible game trailers, I stumbled across what must be the SECOND best trailer ever created. The lack of a serious budget obviously lends itself to creativity, as is shown in what will likely prove to be a sleeper hit: Stalin vs. Martians.

That's right.


Gardening 101

As usual, a busy schedule has dragged me away from my computer at an inopportune time. Normally I would follow the established routine of making up a number of excuses for this and leave it at that, but this time I actually found something that needs to be shared.

Anyone who regularly uses Steam may have seen this already, as it's currently featured on the main page, but PopCap Games (the developer behind incredibly addicting games Peggle and Bejeweled) is releasing a brand new timesink, and with it comes what must be the most amazing game trailer ever made.

Enter Plants vs. Zombies, a VERY different mixture of the Tower Defense and Real Time Strategy genres with a premise that should be pretty self-explanatory (if not absolutely insane). Normally I avoid these kinds of games, as I value my time and would prefer - if I'm going to waste the better part of a day - to waste the better part of a day playing a video game with a high production value. Still, regardless of how well it all comes together on release, isn't 10 dollars a fair reward for such a spectacular trailer?

Let it be known, also, that the song itself was written and sung by one Laura Shigihara, who has since stolen my heart.

I want my heart back, Shigihara.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Bug - Part 1

I thought I saw something move along the floor while I was eating dinner...
From My Comics

The Bug
Part 1
- Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

Saturday, April 11, 2009

He Lives.

Only shock describes the feeling when I say that it looks like my old friend Travis stirs from his slumber.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Not so long ago I stumbled across the work of one Jason Rohrer. It seems Jason is the one programmer on the planet who manages to remain a functional 'free spirit' - a rather interesting story in itself.

That isn't what I'm here to talk about.

What I'd like to bring to attention is, instead, his 2007 project, Passage. An experiment in minimalistic game design, Passage attempts to explore the subject of life and mortality, and does so with startling accuracy. In five minutes.
For anyone with a few minutes to spare, I recommend downloading Passage here (for Windows), then reading Jason's words on the game.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Foiled Again! Pun Not Originally Intended

Studies show, the greater the commitment to providing blog content, the less likely I am to follow through. Rather than giving an excuse, here is a rundown of the past months: Eternal Silence, Lord of the Rings Online, Supreme Commander, Age of Empires 3, Company of Heroes, and Red Alert 3. Also: friend had baby, love interest found other love interest, general instances of being a good samaritan.

And now for the pun: Started fencing lessons, having fun, living out childish Zorro fantasies. L4D is not yet forgotten, more after the break.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Soundscapes - Magnet

Some time ago I made the decision that, in an effort to give this blog SOME form of regularity, I would make at least one post on the second Thursday of the month. This was to be a continuation of my "Soundscapes" segment, where I could feebly attempt to impose my musical taste on others. I promptly ignored that decision.

Here I am, however, several months later (and an hour too late to make the Thursday deadline), apologetic for yet another period of inactivity, and ready to give this segment a go.

This month I'd like to share the soulful melodies of Magnet. Hailing from Bergen, Norway, Even Johansen (according to his website) "...follows in the footsteps of traditional folkdom and modern surrealism, treading a neat path between the two." The comparison, as the site continues to say, has not been made in vain.

I originally discovered Magnet, believe it or not, through a videogame. A rather incredible videogame, actually, named Dreamfall: The Longest Journey; an oldschool adventure game trapped in a modern development cycle. The game still has decent graphics by today's standards, and an incredibly well-developed story with extremely likeable characters and, of course, a great soundtrack. But I'm getting off track.

With lyrics that delve into the soul and a sound that sweeps the mind away in its current, Magnet is a refreshing reminder that someone is out there who still 'gets it.'

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Something Eerie in the Magic Kingdom

I've been wrong before, but I can't help but imagine this is more than coincidence.

Okay I was bored.

The Office Park - Known Bugs

With the release of the map, the true experiment begins: Public playtesting. While I hope for a considerable amount of positive feedback, it's really the criticism that makes the map better, and I expect a good amount of it. Provided below is a current list of known bugs in Concrete Bayou 01 - The Office Park. If anyone sees anything that's not on this list, please comment here or otherwise let me know so that I can add it and get to work.

Known Bugs/Issues - Updated 2/13/09
-Displacement edges render incorrectly (seen in several locations, let me know if you see others: ledge outside of first office, room with broken wall dividing offices)
-Purple haze on higher graphics settings (Caused by advanced shaders, cannot be fixed until the launch of the official SDK. To work around, turn your shaders down to medium or low. Note that this disables normal mapping)
-Warehouse crescendo can be skipped *FIXED*
-Vents in administration building DONT spawn zombies *FIXED*
-Some textures for flourescent lights that are OFF are wrong.
-Lighting in general is off. Light sources are missing in places where lighting exists (mainly the admin building).
-Fire doesn't generate light. *FIXED*
-Zombies don't spawn in one of the side rooms on the lower floor. *FIXED*
-Weapon spawns need balancing. *FIXED*
-Ammo piles don't spawn correctly.
-Washing machine boxes blocking the path past the warehouse entrance are clipping into the wall. *FIXED*
-Fire at crescendo event takes up larger area than intended.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Life in the Concrete Bayou

Tonight is the night, the release of my beta version of the first map in my Left 4 Dead campaign, Concrete Bayou.

Some background: The survivors find themselves holed up in an infested Office Park when the military begins bombing runs in an attempt to curb the spreading infection. Left with no other options, players must escape their hideout and work their way to the distant city of Palm Island where it is rumoured a survivor's outpost has taken hold. The campaign consists of five maps which span a variety of locales, from a small town Office Park through a backwoods swamp and into the commercial delta of the Palm Island city limits, where players fight their way through a department store and finally to the gates of the Palm Island Civilian Outpost itself.

The campaign is planned as follows (All links will lead to L4DMapDatabase campaign pages):
Concrete Bayou (Working Title)
01 - The Office Park
02 - Rural Route 305
03 - City Limits
04 - Bullseye
05 - Drawbridge

Seeing as how this project has taken up a large portion of my free time, I believe it is fitting to include my progress here, both as a resource for anyone interested, as well as a contribution to a rather stagnant portfolio. As of this post, Automated Sweet Talk has taken on the additional function of Concrete Bayou Developer's Log, and I will provide campaign progress, development milestones and hurdles, L4D Mapping tutorials, and "exclusive" screenshots for those interested.

But enough of that, the Demo build of The Office Park is compiling now and will be live in approximately two hours. Take care, and remember:

No zombie is safe from Chicago Ted.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A... Transition?

As anyone who's been paying any attention to their surroundings in the past few weeks can tell you, the inauguration was a heroic victory for all things that are blue. Being frozen for the better part of a day is generally a negative experience, but somehow a million-something of my closest friends managed to overlook our poor decisions and convince ourselves that it was all worthwhile. And it was. And though the actual crowd count may forever remain a mystery, the mass of humanity that filled the mall and seemed to stretch on for eternity was a daunting sight, to say the least. True to my nature, of course, I managed to convince myself that bringing my camera would be a bad idea only to change my mind mere minutes after paying my bus fare, and so I've failed once again to expand this 'hobby' of mine.

Now that I'm back, though, it has come to my attention that my 'photography, writing, and tech blog' has transitioned into a 'political zombie blog,' which is an angle I might pursue as I have resumed work on my Left 4 Dead campaign. With the Beta 0.5 release in two days, I've been hard at work hammering out some of the finer details that I've previously neglected. More on this soon.

Also deserving an honourable mention is the town of Zebulon in North Carolina, because never before have I been so convinced that a small town is inhabited by a race of highly advanced extraterrestrial beings.

Photo actually taken by someone else, in Georgia. Who'd have thought there was more than one?

Now if only I could have seen Jesse Jackson's face when Obama stepped out of his limo...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Left 4 Inauguration

Well of course, the moment I commit myself to regular blog updates is the moment I become embroiled in a fierce crusade to craft a recreation of my hometown for previously-mentioned zombie murdering masterpiece Left 4 Dead. But I've been remiss, and there's no excuse for it.

Of course, it can't be helped after Sunday, because I'm venturing north to try to get into the District of Columbia before the bridges are closed for the inauguration. No, I wasn't fortunate enough to get tickets to see the big man himself, but I'm just crazy enough to brave the crowds and sub-freezing temperatures anyway.

What all this means is two things: first, that I have every intention of abandoning my post(s) for at least another solid week, and second, that my return will mean a huge content boom for the site. This will be the temporary home for everything involving the development of my Left 4 Dead campaign (tentatively titled Concrete Bayou), including updates, concepts, and development milestones. A number of photography updates should be expected as well.

Also, happy new year, for those who mind. Now, if only I could find a pair of long johns...

About Me

My photo
Nick Woll grew up in the Florida Keys, and is furthering himself in the fields of writing, software development, and web design. You can contact him at nwoll27 at gmail dot com.