Let's have fun together. I'll create things and you observe me.

This is a blog detailing all the projects I work on. It's a record of where things are at and a pin board of small random bits and pieces of creation.

I share anything useful I've come across during development, so if you're trying to solve a similar problem checking the labels on the right may be of assistance.

Feel free to leave a comment. Also, please take note that 90% of these blogs are compiled at 3 in the morning. The true hour of the day.

Enjoy your stay.


Thursday, 29 October 2009


Been working with more traditional materials lately. Attempting to develop a solid field-sketching work flow. Getting used to working with an artist's grip on the pencil and drawing confident strokes with large sweeps. Will scan in my work when I figure out how to exactly.

In the mean time, some paltry offerings:

Concept art for a sprite idea I had. The idea primarily sprung from thinking about palette, especially the neon green. Awful anatomy :)

Concept sketch for a 3D model to be used in a Team Fortress 2 map I'm making. Learning Blender in the process, great app.

Random doodle I did after work one night. Mainly playing around with brushes.

Background concept for another project of mine which I'm flirting with resuming. Really happy with the direction of this.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Right, where was I? It's been a while. What happened? Where have I been? What have I done, and why have I returned?

I needed time to consider what I'm doing in my life and where I want to go. I needed to think about the world I'm in and what role I play, as I felt that leaving this issue largely unattended was the cause of a lot of the difficulties I have been having in progressing.

It's a long story, but I believe I know the answers as best I can now, and am moving forward again. So, does art still play a role in my life? Certainly; that is to say of course it does. The direction and focus of my art has become clearer, though.

I doubt I've mentioned it on here before, but I'm very much interested in broad social issues. There's a lot of things about day to day life and society in general that have bothered me for a long time. I used to be very critical, negative and irritable about a lot of things. Over time, however, my frustration has given way to determination and clarity.

Over the last couple of years I've read things here and there on the net, and each item has gotten me closer to a big picture of society. Much of this culminated in the discovery of the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project. To me, these now are the principle concern of my efforts. If you are unfamiliar with them, I urge you to look at them. There's movies, podcasts and books (just the tip of the iceberg). A wealth of information that will most assuredly broaden your perception.

I've actually been considering how to marry this blog to my Venus Project focus. Either a sister blog will be created, or this one will need to be reworked. Still deciding...

So back to my art. I will try to the best of my ability to use what artistic skill I have to help spread awareness of the Zeitgeist Movement and its core ideas. Where exactly that goes, I don't really know. I imagine a lot of it will be things like banners, posters and fliers. Though I did have a few chats with someone about making a Venus Project themed comic for a while. The possibilities are many, at any rate. This is the first real thing I've turned out:

It was originally conceived as part of a series of posters to be placed around university campuses. The idea I had was to have different posters for different schools within the institution, so concepts could be presented to people in ways that would appeal to what they study. For instance, you have issues about behaviourism in the Psychology buildings, issues about censorship and philosophy in the Arts building, and, as is the case with the above poster, issues of technology in the IT and Engineering buildings, etc. I have an idea for a business one which I hope to turn out soon.

Just for fun, here's a concept sketch I did for the Venus Project comic:

The protagonist within his gloomy industrial work center

Aside from that, I will continue my artistic study in order to improve my skills. Not a great deal of time has been committed to this, but progress is being made nonetheless. Here's how it's shaped up:

All posemaniacs references. These were mainly concerned with getting gesture and loose, confident strokes.

Photo reference. These were for just studying real people. The second woman in particular has a very interesting body.

Mainly posemaniacs stuff. Playing around with charcoal brushes. I really like the grittiness and ambiguity it gives pieces. I see myself using things like this a lot more.

Just a weird thing I did. Originally it was meant to be a concept sketch for a new pixelation avatar. I basically had this concept of a very concave face shape and glowing eyes, but it ended up as a goblin man painting, so, there you go...

Painting concept; something I'd love to do on a traditional medium at some point. Part of a series on the body and spirit. Part of a long, intricate vision I had while meditating.

Anatomy study needs to be returned to. Shading study could also use some redressing, but for the most part I'm feeling good about the direction I'm heading. Very happy with the palette I've developed, makes work very fast and easy. Now I just need to get a good selection of brushes going and I'll be set.

P.S. I cut my hair!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Artistic Transmutation

Well I suppose things haven't been as productive as is possible. I've seen myself essentially shift from the position of a producer to that of a consumer. Rather than draw, sing and write, I view, hear and read. This has resulted in a stagnation of inspiration as I lose impulsive association between what is perceived and what is expressed.

In steps to reverse this alarming position, I reformed my own opinion on the matter, transmuting the situation from indifference to concern. Once this critical realisation was manifest, events aligned to assist in an actuation of this concept to reality. I had a good talk with my old friend Jack, whose reassurances of my inspiration and abilities pushed my resolve and momentum towards action, further resulting in his gifting of a book to my possession. It's an addition to the paltry collection of art books I hold, and it eerily mirrors my current artistic visions and sensibilities.

Following this event was the reconsolidation of the artistic alliance between Nick and I, where we have undertaken careful study of human anatomy for the purposes of drawing. I've been doing a considerable number of sketches since that commencement, and improvement has been marked, though yet to be notably achieved. Prepare for the largest dump this blog has seen to date:

The first sketch, from reference

Another from reference, still on head study at this stage

More head study, from reference

Following from notes, head study

Neck study, this is totally messed up

More neck study, even more messed up

Neck study, following from notes

And finally, more neck study from notes, some serious errors on head, and extension of study to shoulders

Each section of study will need numerous reviews. I am currently looking over the torso and pelvis, and hope to delve into some sketches of those in the next couple of days.


Saturday, 17 January 2009

A Special Kind of Hell

I've spent the majority of today attempting to get Synergy to compile.

Basically, as far as I can tell, after I formatted my computer some time ago and reinstalled MSVC++ 2008, reinstated all the libraries that Synergy uses (Allegro, AllegroGL & SOIL), at some stage something went wrong.

I loaded up the .sln file, and hit Build, and I was confronted with one of the strangest errors I've seen in a while: something about an inline assembly code error, expected an opcode and found a data type, or something bizarre like that.

I started to systematically compile each individual .cpp file, and found that all of them except 1 compiled just fine. The troublemaker that caused the problem was gam_Entity.cpp, which is weird because that's a very simple source file, with very few dependencies and very straight-forward class-definition-style code.

So I kind of fiddled around in that file, commenting out sections of code and recompiling, trying to find a particular line that spouted the error, and I found that no line caused it, since I ended up commenting out the entire .cpp and .h files! By this point I was just downright flabbergasted, and I turned to google for help.

I found a couple of pages that mainly went through fiddling with project properties, cleaning out .obj itermediary files, that sort of thing. But none of those seemed to fix it. So then I started thinking maybe it was something about where Allegro was being included, so I started including allegro.h and alleggl.h at different points in the header file, commenting out includes, trying #include instead of #include "allegro.h", random trial and error things like that.

I don't remember exactly at what point it worked, but somewhere it worked. As far as I can tell, no one thing that I did fixed it, it just seemed to `come good', which is troubling.

Anyway, after that assembly error stopped coming up, I had a new set of errors coming up; a tonne of link errors. Welcome to the next nightmare. This was basically about 180 LNK2001 errors saying various identifiers had already been included in .obj files. I did more scanning of the net and went a little crazy, and then I realised I had actually gone through all the functions in m_common.h and removed the inline from the beginning of each non-template function definition in an attempt to fix the previous problem. Dur. So I replaced the inlines and bam! No more link errors.

But then I got a single error; something about P1 and P2 being different versions. Scanning the net more, I found out this relates to the compiler having incosistent versions of itself, or that libraries that I'm using have been compiled with different version compilers, something quite likely. So then I kind of started losing my mind, and tried bringing in different versions of each library to MSVC++ 8.0, downloading and installing MSVC++ 9.0 and installing the libraries for that, and even going back to MSVC++ 6.0 and trying there.

What I ended up with was uninstalling 8.0 sort of out of some irrational belief that it would help to quell the curse upon my computer, but also (more rationally) that I should try reinstalling it at some point and carefully version checking each library I bring into it.

MSVC++ 9.0 overcame the P1 != P2 error, but now SOIL.lib was spouting a couple of link errors to unresolved external symbols __alloca() and something else. So now I'm quite lost. My guess is some version inconsistency between the 9.0 compiler and the compiler that SOIL was written for, ie SOIL only compiles on 8.0 or earlier, or something like that. That's something I mean to test when I reinstall 8.0.

I then tried to comment out the SOIL code and I was left with a single link error about MSVCRT not being able to locate _main. So I followed some instructions on a website to fiddle with the MFC settings in the project settings, which just spawned more errors so I reverted back to EXACTLY how the settings were, and now I have 7 errors. It's absolute madness!

MSVC++ 6.0 finally managed to compile and execute an older version of the code once I commented out all reference to SOIL. This is basically the best result that I've achieved. At this point I'm looking at bringing in all the code that I've written since this old version, getting it to function, and then (hopefully!) compile and run. At that point I'll be back to where I was, except in 6.0 instead of 8.0, to which I say good riddance. This might also be a good time to rid myself of AllegroGL for good. One lesson I take from this is `the less dependencies, the better'.

So there it is, my special kind of hell. To be honest, this should never have happened. Part of the function of this blog is to act as an engineering journal, where I can record version changes and things I do to my projects which might end up leading to something like this current scenario in the future. I should have had logged which version all of my libraries, IDE and compiler were and the directory of my last known successful build of Synergy.

I won't make the same mistake again.


Synergy Version: 0.0.0
IDE Version: MSVC++ 6.0
Allegro Version: 4.2.2
AllegroGL Version: 0.4.2
SOIL Version: 2008/07/07

Current Status:
  • Compiling & Executing
  • SOIL producing two LNK2001 errors; all SOIL references have been commented out
  • Thus, textures currently not loading
  • Old demo version; multiple smoothed 3D objects floating in space
To Do:
  • Eliminate all AllegroGL dependency
  • Fix texture loading
  • Implement multicore functionality
  • Reintegrate following features:
  1. multiple material meshes
  2. the `Big Room' demo
  3. lightmaps
  4. unified lighting attenuation system
  • Implement uniform lightmap patching system
  • Implement physics library integration

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Multi Yodel Scope

So, I've been on holidays for two months or so, and have been partaking in eclectic activities. Most of these are not significant to the focus of this blog, however I have managed to glean some constructive work from this time.

First up, I've given some attention to restructuring Synergy to support multicore processing. I had the design goals to allow the engine to scale with cores at run time, to have next to zero locking mechanisms in the code, and to have the multicore functionality as transparent as possible.

What I ended up with is largely a combination of two materials I read. The first is an introductory article to writing multicore games for the Xbox 360, which gives a good overall breakdown of an engine's structure into parallel processes. The second is Valve Corporation's presentation on Source Engine's multicore concepts.

Taking these two together, I basically have two `Delegator' threads that run through the structure outlined in the 360 article as 2 parallel processes. Every significant independently executable function within those threads is called with a function wrapper task(), which takes a pointer to the function to be run, and up to four parameters caste to void type. The task() function takes the information passed to it and builds a linked list with it, and then pushes that linked list onto a lock-less task queue.

All the while this is happening, there is a thread pool with some number of threads all executing a peon() function. As the name might suggest, peon functions continually check the task queue for a task, and if they can grab it they do so, break the linked list up into a function call, and then execute the function representing the task to be done. Upon completing the function, the thread returns to its peon() function to continue checking for more work to do. As you might guess, the number of peon threads in operation is related to how many CPU cores are visible to the engine. The more cores available, the more peons can be running.

Within all of this is a simple semaphore system whereby a task in the queue can be associated with a semaphore. This allows the delegator threads to wait until a certain cluster of tasks in the queue are completed before adding more tasks. This is a necessary evil simply due to the serialised structure of games themselves, and at the moment is the most logical solution I can think of. This is, in fact, a locking mechanism, but it's only operating when the actual logic of the program cannot proceed until the current tasks are completed, and it should minimise any kind of thrashing, since the peon threads never rely on the semaphores.

So that's Synergy's multicore structure at the moment. Nothing too sophisticated, and still yet to actually be tested! But at least in theory it meets all of my design goals for the moment.

Next up in my projects is a Team Fortress 2 map! I've been itching to do some mapping for a while, but struggled to settle upon a good idea until I was reading over the Valve Developer Community Team Fortress 2 pages, and there was an article about Circular Control Point map types. This is a game mode currently not implemented in any official map, but has the potential to be an extremely dynamic game type if implemented appropriately.

After reading about it, I had a rapid explosion of ideas for a map, and begun to sketch out every area in photoshop, paying careful attention to attack/defend dynamics, flanks, killzones and setup areas. As well as the obvious considerations for each class.

After about a day I had the whole map sketched out and detailed with all major routes, spawns, setup areas, rocket jump access, etc, and began to actually rough the map out in Hammer. As of writing this I have the entire map roughed out in seperate map files and am currently bringing them all together and playing a juggling act to get them to all fit together. Some points have considerably larger areas than others, and so alot of scale harmonising needs to be done, which is a little tedious.

I'm hoping to have a tight, playable alpha of the map ready by the next tf2mappers.net game day, so it can have some testing done by fellow mappers. Anyway, though it's hardly eye-candy material at this point, here's some screen shots:

Battle area below D

Attacker's far staging area at C

Primary indoor contesting area of C

Oh and here's some random sketch I half-finished up the other day:

What if the mountain defeats you?