Life of a Stick


  • Category Archives Video Games
  • Morrowind Werewolf Mod

    Hey, I found some an old Morrowind mod website and put it online.

    It’s stuck on my home machine for now (eg, slow connection) but when I get unlazy (eg, when I graduate school in a year and have a spare second) I’ll put it on my faster server and maybe remind people about it.

    http://werewolves.skaarj.com/


  • Recent Events

    Last Friday and Saturday I went to the 2D or not 2D animation festival. It was awesome. I got to meet amazing people like Barry Cook and Dean Yeagle and Michel Gange. Of course, my DigiPen professor Tony White was there, seeing as he was hosting the festival in the first place.

    After getting an exclusive first look on Gange’s upcoming game and getting a bunch of stuff signed by him, and watching some fantastic shorts like Chicken Cowboy, and listening to an orchestra at close range (they took up half the big room the final mingle was in) I went back to my car and found a car window and my backpack missing. Whoops.

    Let that be a lesson to everyone: Don’t leave tempting unknowns sitting around where someone may see it. Save yourself some trouble. Now I gotta buy a new backpack, a new sketchbook, and some new charcoal. I feel kinda sorry for the guy who stole it… he risked the law for… well, nothing.

    So I got home, and my good friend tek_hed who’d lent me a Wacom tablet for the past many years, finally needed it back. So I was now tabletless.

    Feeling sorry for myself, and a bit stupid for getting my backpack stolen, I went and ordered a new toy. A 12″ Cintiq. Seeing as it was only $400 more than the $600 for a new tablet, I figured I might as well splurge. Man, this stuff is expensive. It should get here in a week or two.

    But wait, that’s not all!

    I got an email from Rick Simmons, CEO of Virtrium LLC about a press release he was making about my Seawolf dragons..

    I think I’m getting ahead of myself, as I haven’t mentioned the dragons here yet. The dragons link above should explain a bit about them. They’re an avatar available for Second Life that use a bug (that hadn’t been exploited previously) to increase the size of your avatar. I don’t have any size references images or even videos handy, so I’m just going to give a link to an image of the vendor location. The top of the smallest dragon’s head is about as tall as a normal person. If you have Second Life, you can visit the location inworld by clicking this SLurl.

    Oh, and Left 4 Dead came out. Valve’s latest masterpiece, and more proof that finding awesome people and buying them into the company is a very smart idea.


  • Truth and Cheating

    TRUTH! It’s a wonderful thing. Everyone should have some truth in their lives. I’m writing this in the hopes that I can help a few people know what to look for and how to categorize it. Things made a lot more sense to me after thinking about it this way. But as I’m going to point out… my truth may not be your truth.

    Truth comes in three levels.

    1. Personal Truth. A personal truth is something that is truthful for you and only you. For example, I can get pretty bad heartburn if I eat the wrong things. True for me, but some people have been fortunate enough to never have heartburn.

    2. Social Truth. A social truth is a rule, law, or consequence put into place by a social structure, usually to assist with keeping things orderly and manageable. Traffic laws keep people safe on the roads. If you didn’t stay on the correct side of the road or stay under (or at least near) the speed limit, then dangerous things might result, for you or someone else.

    3. Universal Truth. Universal truth is something that’s true for everyone. And not just for people, for anything, anywhere. Light travels at a certain speed. Sound travels at another. Gravity works off a certain mathematical formula. And etc.

    Now let me dig a little deeper on these, and illustrate some common communication problems these help clear up.

    Elevating a truth offends people. This is just a general rule, of course. But if you take a personal truth, and apply it socially or universally, you’re essentially imposing a rule on someone else that they may not believe in.

    A common example of this is churches. Churches, like it or not, can only be empirically proven as social truths. Personally, I believe that the truths my church teachers are all the way up at universal truth. But if I present it that way to someone who doesn’t agree, I can easily offend them. By leaving it at the personal or social level, a discussion can actually happen.

    And when I talk about social levels, I mean limited social levels. If you’re dealing with national social beliefs and speaking as an American to a Briton, and the Briton insists that cars must drive on the left side of the road, then ur doin it rong. You’ve crossed the social truth boundaries and they no longer apply. Same goes with religious discussions. Social truths should only be applied for people that are a member of that society.

    Essentially, the biggest problem I see with religious, political, and other discussions that end up offending and resulting in yelling is that people upgrade their personal or social truths to apply to other people’s personal, social, or even universal truths.

    Now the title includes “cheating.” This is my favorite part.

    Truth seems to have two parts to it. Action and consequence, and limitations. Social truths tend to be punishment based, so they’re more action and consequence. Personal truths have action and consequence, but they’re also heavily limitation based. There are things people simply cannot do, such as fly, or run faster than a few miles per hour.

    But let’s talk about limitations. For example, I cannot lift five tons. It’s too friggin’ heavy. But, if I apply all sorts of mechanical lever and pulley knowledge (or just get a big tractor) then I can do it no problem.

    Cheating in life means bypassing limitations defined by truth. The Belgariad has a fun recurring theme, where a master sorcerer gets offended when people say things are impossible. I’m much the same way.

    I’m currently working on a project in Second Life. It defies truths, or limitations, set in place when the program was created. I’ve shown it to some friends that are familiar with Second Life. They look at it, and they watch it work, and then when I’m done demonstrating it I ask them a simple question, “is what just happened possible?” Having just watched the demonstration, currently looking at it with their own eyes, they invariably answer “No.” A truth was established, and it was cheated. It’s a wonderful and exciting feeling to do so.

    I’ll (hopefully) give more info on that project within a week.


  • DreamKeepers Happenings

    For those of you that don’t know, I’m really big on webcomics. I have several that I read regularly, and odds are I’ve at least heard of it if it’s worth mentioning.

    A while back, I came across a webcomic called DreamKeepers. It was cute, funny, entertaining, well drawn, and all around neat.

    One of the things I hate about webcomics is when they give you like five pages and then they’re all “Oh, HA! You thought this was a free comic! No, we just put five pages of our published comic online. Now you should buy it.”

    Another solution, which I find much better, is the route that Digger took. You get two hundred and eighty five comics, and then you have to pay to see the rest. BUT, if you’re good with schedules, you can see the current page every day. I would much prefer if there was some large gap in the middle that was moving, so you could keep reading you’d just be behind. But it’s a lot less evil than just putting up a couple pages.

    The least evil solution I’ve seen, which is why I purchased DreamKeepers when I’ve never purchased a dead-tree version of a webcomic before, was that not only did it offer a small sample of the book version (19 pages) but it has a pre-book webcomic that’s updated weekly.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to read the DreamKeeper’s physical comic book. It arrived and my mom saw it. She said, “Hey, I wasn’t allowed to have comic books when I was a kid,” took it, and walked off, thumbing through it. Based on the webcomic, I have no doubts about its quality.

    In other news, I still need to post my past grades. I don’t even know when the last time I posted them was. And I don’t know if I’ve posted my upcoming fall schedule, either.

    I will make a post when my Seawolf project is finished for Second Life, though. If I haven’t mentioned it, I make Boats with a friend. We’re working on something else now, though, but have been careful not to make the information public and only gotten the opinion of close friends and professionals. It’s really, really, really awesome though. Really.


  • New Server, New Promises

    There was an electrical problem today and it caused the router and cable modem to be offline for an hour or two. When they came back up, my Comcast IP of some time was no longer my IP. I called Comcast and they said that the “persistent IP” feature that I was counting on hasn’t been offered for years, which means a reliable IP address is no longer something I can rely on.

    What this means to you, is that I can no longer host websites out of my house. Which makes me very sad. If you’re reading this, it means I’ve moved to a different host. And since I’m not dealing with everything myself, that has the potential to involve other people in the dangers of using Epic‘s intellectual property: the name “Skaarj.”

    In an effort to ward off any potential lawsuits, I’m going to play the “fansite” card and try to hide behind it. To begin, I’ll include the following, replayed from Epic’s fansite policy:

    Section 2 — Disclaimer

    2.1 Epic requires that a disclaimer be used in conjunction with your use of Epic IP. The required disclaimer is provided below. You must display the disclaimer on each web page of your Fan Site and on any web page containing your Fan Art, as well as on the Fan Art itself.

    “Portions of the materials used are ®, ™,(mr), and/or (mc) Epic Games, Inc., and/or copyrighted works of Epic Games, Inc., in the United States of America and elsewhere. All rights reserved, Epic Games, Inc. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Epic Games, Inc.”

    Assuming that the name “Skaarj” is Epic Intellectual Property, the above disclaimer is now displayed on the site, and will be included in the footer of every page before it scrolls off the front page updates. I’ll have to put that in the fanarts, too, it seems.

    Hope that works!

    Edit 25/09/2011: Skaarj is not a registered trademark, and you cannot copyright a name. I believe there are some laws out there specifically regarding domain names. But I don’t know the specifics.


  • Skaarj Poster

    Some number of months ago (more than half a year, I think) I discovered a program called The Rasterbator. It takes an image and turns it into “dots” like newspaper pictures, but at a much larger size. This lets you grossly enlarge an image without the “jaggies” or “fuzzies” that happen when you make it too big.

    I used it, because it was neat and it’s fun to try out neat things. I finally settled on a Skaarj picture that looked rather cool. But there were two problems after I used it.

    1) I didn’t have a paper cutter to put all the pieces together.
    2) The printer ran out of black ink halfway through the printing.

    The second item went unnoticed until just recently when I was putting it together.

    In any case, the printout was 7×5 pages, and made for a very large poster. Here it is, with a reference shot of me (cut off about at the knees) in the lower right corner. The image has been edited to remove clutter and a doorframe.

    Rasterbated Skaarj Poster


  • Wheeeeeeeee!

    The Nintendo Revolution is now called the Nintendo Wii.

    If you ask me, that’s wii-tarded. Only someone as wii-tless as Nintendo could come up with that. Is their online service going to be called “wii streaming”?

    And the jokes just start getting more and more dirty from there. “Hey guys! Come down stairs and let’s play with my Wii!”

    Bad choice, Nintendo. Just… no.

    But se-wii-ously. I don’t care what they name their little white box. If it’s fun and has good games, I’ll buy it. From what they’ve announced so far it sounds like something I’d enjoy. I’ll just never call it by what it is and wii won’t have any problems with each other.


  • Oblivion Review

    I got Oblivion on the opening day and ended up missing a lot of work that week (not entirely because of the game, I’ve been rather unwell lately).

    Oblivion is the fourth game in The Elder Scrolls series, and is epic in such that it signifies the end of the third age of the Tamrielic empire. I had the game beat within the week, and my save file said “37 hours”, which doesn’t count the time I spent on other characters or the time that was lost when I reloaded an earlier save. Of course, after beating the game I realized I’d only explored maybe 5% of the wilderness, hadn’t ventured into Oblivion but a handful of times, and had done only one of the questlines (there’s also the five or six guilds, Daedra Shines, and numberless sidequests).

    The Good: The game is huge. The forests, water, ruins, creatures, and everything are beautiful. The skills, spells, potions, and everything are plentiful in quantity and variety, and while not everything is useful to everyone, everything is useful in some light. For example, a mage is never going to need fatigue (read: stamina) potions, but a fighter should never be without one.

    Everything is voice acted. The NPCs are the most realistic of any game I can remember as they go about their daily lives sleeping, eating, manning their store, talking with each other, or wandering around town begging for money. Even after you kill someone they still move realistically as you drag their body and throw it in a nearby lake!

    The game is full of surprises. I was stalking a few people in this one town and got used to seeing the stables dude hanging around outside the town gate. One day when I was coming back to town I heard some weapons clanging, then someone cried “Murder! Murder!” I saw the stablehand running for his dear life with a guard in hot persuit and a dead man on the ground.

    The Bad: First, almost everything “wrong” with the game can be fixed by a mod. If you don’t like the way something in the game works right now, wait a week and see if someone’s fixed it yet.

    The voices spoken by the same person in the same sentence can range in pitch, tone, and recording quality. It doesn’t happen very often, but it’s annoying when it does.

    The invisible walls that determine the end of the playing world could have been better done. Instead of some random location they could have been at a river a few paces ahead and display, “That water looks too cold for you…” or something more interesting than, “You cannot go that way.”

    The menus doesn’t scale up in size the larger your resolution goes — which is kinda neat, as everyone gets the same play experience, but it got bothersome to me as I went through the game and ended up with more and more items to sort through. Mods are already out to fix that, and I use them.

    And those are the biggest complaints I have. The invisible walls will eventually be fixed by a mod. In fact, I think they already have been.

    The Funny: I stole a horse once and the gate guard saw me do it. “Stop! Thief!” he cried, as I jumped the stable fence with the horse and took off down the road. About half a mile later I saw something interesting and stopped. I wasn’t paying attention and apparently the guard was still chasing. He eventually caught up, yelled, “Thief! You won’t get away with this!” in my ear, and I turned, he sheathed his sword, and then he started walking back to town.

    The game has lots of easter eggs. But they fit in the game perfectly. There’s nothing odd about them — they’re just… funny. And fitting. And there’s so many of them! Like the common clothing item “Blue Suede Shoes.”

    The arrows stick in people. Being a marksman allows you to turn people into pincushions. “So what” you say? You’ve never seen someone fall after a long hard marksman battle in Oblivion. It’s really a sight like no other game because the arrows are substantial instead of tiny darts. Then you go into your inventory and notice you look just as bad as the guy on the ground.

    M’aiq the Liar. He’s back! And has even more to say! If you can find him.

    The End: I very much recommend buying the game if you enjoy single player RPGs. It’s really something else.


  • Horizons Screenshots

    It’s been about two years, but I finally got around to sorting my Horizons screenshots. I even added a few to it that I took recently while participating in a 14-day trail they opened up.

    The highlight of my screenshots is a poorly documented story (through intermittent screenshots and file names) of my journey to game coordinates 0,0. The trip there takes about two hours, most of it walking through … well… nothing. Though there are some interesting highlights, especially for those that play the game. For example, one-time quest NPCs are usually stored at 0,0, among other things.

    As a reference the coordinates 0,0 are the Southwest corner of the game. Back in beta (if I recall correctly) the most Southwest corner of the actual continent is around the city Sslanis and is 15000,15000. (Currently it is still 15000,15000, but is an island. Sslanis is around 20000,22000. So I’m either confused, or the tectonic plates really drifted in the past few years.) The land point furthest Northeast are around 27000,40000, making a total of about 12000×26000 “meter” land area (except for all the water between the islands, so cut 1/3rd or so out).

    Anyway, it’s a long walk to 0,0. Roughly equal to walking from one corner of the world of Horizons to the other. It is no longer possible to make this journey on foot because the water actually kills you when you drown instead of forcing you into a cancelable recall.

    Anyway, here’s my Horizons screenshot directory:

    http://stickman.mach5.org/0/Screenshots/Horizons/


  • Employment!

    I got a job! Well, two of them. This is going to be interesting. I haven’t had a “real” job since … um… … four, four and a half years ago? One is software testing for Microvision on their portable “flic” barcode scanner (if you look up info on Microvision, check out their Nomad portable headsup display), and the other is testing the XBox 360 and game titles for it. Both have very flexible hours, so I should be able to get by without many conflicts.

    On that note, I’m working from 1pm to midnight today, and then from 8am to 4pm tomorrow. While scheduling conflicts may not kill me, the schedule itself might.

    My greatest fear about XBox 360 testing is that I’m going to get Oblivion spoiled for me by seeing it ahead of time. If it really is delayed, then that shouldn’t be much of an issue. Oh, and I’m under an NDA, so don’t even try to get anything out of me or I’ll be in legal trouble.



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