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April-June 2002 (oldest-to-newest)
The golf camp was lots of fun even if we didn't improve
our games all that much. It was hot as heck in Sonoma (for
March at least) and we both got sun burned despite applying
loads of sunscreen. It was in the 80s (that's around 30 C
for you metric people) and stayed that way well past 3pm,
making our free play time after lessons that much more
difficult. We're heading out this weekend to test our new
skillz. Just so you know, I typically shoot around twice
par (~140) while Gwen does a bit better.
Imagine my delight when I returned home to read
about the new Toe Jam & Earl game for X-Box. I held my
breath for a day that it wasn't a hoax - it was posted on
April 1st after all. Now that it seems genuine I'm jumping
for joy. It's a bit annoying how the article has quotes
from Sega acting like they're responsible for the game.
Check this one out:
|"With its inventive plot, distinctive characters and
clever humor, 'ToeJam & Earl III' reiterates SEGA's
commitment to publishing daring, genre-bending games."
Funny how they tout it as daring and genre-bending when
it was Sega that forced the developers to change TJ&E 2 into
a platform game. Of course there's no mention of the fine
Toe Jam & Earl
Greg and Mark created the characters and
should be given full credit for this original and wacky
My wife and I played our first round of golf after our
lessons the previous weekend. I improved quite a bit, going
from 134 & 137 the previous two rounds to 114 this time. It
feels good to hit the ball straight more often. I can't
wait to get out there again!
I finally booted up the second game I bought with my
X-Box at launch, Munch's Oddysee. The graphics are
very impressive and I like the voice acting thusfar. I
never played the first two games so this is all new to
I also continue to play Rez from time to time.
I'm still unlocking things as I get better scores. Very
I usually procrastinate when it comes to doing taxes, but
this year we got them done early. In fact we already
received our refund a few weeks ago. We got a good-sized
refund, but really that's only partially making up for the
humongous amount we paid last year. Stupid AMT.
Played a bit more of Munch - what a frustrating
game. At first I was trying to get a perfect score. You
know, save all the Fuzzles and "retire" all the bad guys.
After reloading my save game about fifteen billion times I
gave up on the second one and just resolved to save all the
Fuzzles. Plus, some of the enemies are creatures that
resemble dogs. Being a pet owner I can't bring myself to
killing them. Granted they do attack you, but the yelps
they give out when hit are a bit too real for my
The first part of my black belt test was moved up to this
Friday. Then it finishes the following weekend on the 26th
and 27th. I have a ton of things I've been keeping on
hold until after the test. It will be good to finally get
Whew, the news page is getting pretty full! Guess I
need to write the script to create archive pages pretty
Man it's been a while since I've done any programming.
I have so many things I want to do too. First I want to
finish off some stuff in Chomp. I kind of left it in a
broken state so I hope it's not too difficult to resurrect.
After that I think I'll look into porting Decaying Orbit to
NUON, more for curiosity than anything else. I just want
to see how difficult it would be and how the performance
compares. Then it's back to my original game with the
previously planned engine overhaul. Ah it will be nice to
have time again. Just 9 more days!
Speaking of which, my test starts tonight, continues next
Friday, and finishes up that Saturday. If you were here a
couple years ago when I went through my first degree test
you might recognize the photo. That's the brick I broke at
the test (the blue lines are the 1- and 2-inch marks). This
time around I'll be breaking two of those. I've done as many
as three at once, but they've all been half as wide and thus
much easier. Still I'm not too concerned.
Former VML employee and Tempest 2000/3000 creator Jeff
Minter is back. Yak's been working on games for the Pocket
PC platform and has Deflex and Hover Bovver available. He
also has versions available for the PC (one of the nice
side effects of developing on a PPC emulator). I tried the
Deflex demo and will surely pay for the full version of
both games soon. Gotta love those pick-up-and-play
Head on over to
to check it out.
I finally put together the
page. Click on over to get some history about the game that
I'm personally most proud of. Some of you that have been
coming here for a while will know most of it already, but
hopefully it's still interesting.
As I've mentioned in the past I am curious to find out
how easy it would be to port the game over to NUON. The
SDK includes a pretty capable sprite library so it should
be possible. The graphics will need conversion to 16-bit,
but that's a good thing since on the Yaroze they were purely
4-bit sprites. Naturally all the Yaroze library calls will
need to be replaced, too. Ideally I would rewrite the
planet rendering code to be more procedural rather than being
limited to 16 distinct frames of animation.
The black belt test went well this weekend. I'm
confident that I passed, but won't know for sure until
they give me my scores. It's nice to have that behind me
and frees up a lot of evening and weekend time to work on
other things. Yay!
I bought a sealed copy of Frequency for PS2 off
of eBay for $20. The game is worth $40 or more, but at
$20 it's a steal! It pays to have patience when one is
buying games. I will never pay more than $40 for a game
again. I always have a back log of games to play so
whenever I get the urge to buy a new one I remind myself
to play the ones I have. It takes some incredible
willpower let me tell you!
Anyway, back to Frequency. I love music games
and this one is fantastic. There's a great variety of
music. It's not just techno/dance like DDR and Bust a
Groove, nor is it all pop/rock like Um Jammer Lammy. I
burned through the "Easy" mode in a couple hours
yesterday. I'm sure "Normal" and "Expert" will take a lot
longer given that there are more songs and that the game
gets a lot more difficult.
Have I met my match? While the easy mode in
Frequency was rather simple, the normal mode has
me pretty stuck. My goodness it's hard. And I haven't even
tried the expert mode yet! I need to complete one more
song to open up the next stage, but for the life of me I
can't do it. I'll keep trying, but boy is it
Got another $20 eBay game, this time Spy Hunter
for PS2. I haven't tried it yet, but I enjoyed the demo
I played a while back. In fact it's one of the few demos
that actually prompted me to get the full game.
This post serves two purposes. First, I put in the
code to generate the archive pages.
There's bound to be problems, but at least now the main
page isn't so long. Secondly I wanted to test out the
ability to have two news updates on the same day. Hopefully
This one does overwrite the previous one.
I got all the news transfered from the old Insider to
the new site. You can catch up on the past five years
here. The images and links are
probably broken - I'll go through and fix them over
One of the games that my wife and I play quite
frequently is Ballistic for NUON. We enjoyed it for
quite a while, but lost it up when I
gave up my
Extiva (Dec 19, last paragraph).
I got a Toshiba SD-2300 as a replacement, but
that one came with The Next Tetris instead. I
finally broke down and bought a used copy of
Ballistic off of eBay. So now my wife and I have
frequent versus battles (she's darn at it good too).
I got a little further in Frequency. It still
has a monster learning curve. Much too steep if you ask
me, but what do I know. I'm just a 29-year-old who's
gaming skillz are probably on the decline :)
You can see on the left I've changed the way external
and broken links are displayed. While the internal and
external types are generated automatically by the scripts
here, I have to manually add the "broken" status to the
bad links. So you'll continue to encounter 404's by
following links from the archive until I get around to
fixing them all. I did go through the first archive page
Q4 1997 and fix
everything. Let me know if you find something screwy.
Tim Prezzano has been hacking away at the NUON SDK and
recently released Ambient Monsters. It's supposed
to be a chill-out sort of program. Unfortunately I can't
play it since I don't have an N-501. I really need to sell
my Toshiba and upgrade to the Samsung. That way I won't
miss out on these things. Anyway, you can download the
Or jam on over to
to get the full scoop on everything NUON (which ain't much
Way to go Tim! You're cranking out the titles faster
than me and I have a full dev kit. Of course I actually
have to do something to have it done. Games don't
I actually worked on Chomp a bit Sunday. It took some
work to get the NUON dev kit talking to my PC since
upgrading to Windows 2000. Thankfully having both a
wireless network card and a wired card in the same system
behaves better in Win 2K than it did in Win 98.
I finished adding a more continuous range of speeds for
Chomp and the enemies. Before, they could only move one
pixel per frame or some integer multiple (or divisor)
thereof. So you could go (for example) normal speed,
double speed, or half speed, but nothing in between. That
made it hard to have a smooth ramp in difficulty. One
level may have been absurdly easy because the enemies were
moving half your speed while the level next would be very
difficult when they're the same. Now the speed and
location of the sprites is represented by a 16.16 fixed
Also, I removed the constraint that the player may only
turn at the center of a tile. Obviously it is necessary
that you can only turn a corner when at the center.
However this contraint also prevented you from doing an
immediate 180 - you had to wait until Chomperman got to the
center of the next tile. This only took a fraction of a
second, but even that may lead to your demise. Changing
this gives the player more control, which is always
I finally dug into Spy Hunter this weekend. It's
a really cool game - one I definitely look forward to
playing more. It has aspects that I find extremely desirable
in a game. The missions are short - less than 10 minutes
each. You can blow through a level and do the bare minimum
or you can take your time to learn the ins and outs in
order to satisfy all the objectives. I was planning to
incorporate some of this in my own game once I get back
Another E3 has come and gone. Too bad I couldn't have
gone - I really enjoyed the two I went to when I was at
VML. It's always difficult to keep up with all the news
that comes out of the show and this year was no different.
In fact this year had the largest number of titles that I
am excited about by a long shot. I'm not into the more
typical genres - sports, fighting and racing games don't
really appeal to me (unless they have a unique twist like
Wipeout or Tobal). This time, however, there
are still a ton of games that I will be keeping my eye
|Silent Hill 3
|Full Throttle 2
|Star Fox Adventures
|Deux Ex 2
|Crazy Taxi 3
|Resident Evil 0
Work has had me slammed lately and it doesn't look like
it will let up soon. I sneak in some Spy Hunter
when I can, but programming is mostly out of the question.
While it appeared that I would have to go to work,
instead I had the most event-free Memorial Day weekend in
a while. I was on call waiting in case they needed me to
come in, but that never happened. So while my wife went
off and played golf I was stuck at home. Naturally this
meant I got lots of quality time with Spy Hunter and
lots of programming!
I need to figure out how to extract screenshots from Chomp
so I can show progress rather than just describe it.
Anyway I got lots of major items done this weekend. First,
I added warp tunnels. Whereas before you played in an
enclosed maze now you can wrap around from side to side
like in the original Pac-man. Of course this wouldn't be
complete without the ability to slow down the enemies as
they follow you through the warp tunnel. So now you can
designate tiles as "slow" and they will reduce the enemy
speed when passing through them. The slow tiles can be
combined with other items too like pills, power pills, or
fruit. You can also create a different image for the slow
tiles so you can tell the difference between them and
The next addition is a special bonus that occurs when
the player eats a certain number of pills consecutively.
While in this "bonus mode" the player moves slightly
faster and leaves a trail of smoke behind. All points
earned while in bonus mode are increased by 50%. The
bonus keeps going until the player stops eating pills for
The last major element I added is a level select. You
can choose to either play in Arcade Mode like normal or
instead select a level. This lets you access some of the
later levels that maybe you couldn't get to before (or
didn't have the patience to play long enough to get
These last two additions, the pill bonus and level
select, are necessary for what I have in mind for the next
release. I plan to make a Tournament Edition of Chomp
where people will be able to compete for the high score on
each level. Obviously there is no net connection for NUON
so all of this will be done with passwords and a special
page on this site. Players will be able to enter their
info like name, score, level number, etc. as well as a
verification password. The site will keep track of high
scores for every level. I hope this generates some
BTW, you may be wondering why the pill bonus is
necessary for the Tournament Edition. Since the levels
have a fixed number of pills/powerpills/fruit each player
would get essentially the same score every time. The only
variation would be on ghosts eaten. Having the pill bonus
introduces more variety into the scoring. The player that
can maintain the bonus longer, and eat more big ticket
items while in bonus mode, will score more.
Put in a player select last night. I quickly threw
together a Ms. Pac-man-ish sprite to use while testing.
I'll try to get some more attractive images in there
I think all that's left for the Tournament Edition is to
keep track of high scores for individual levels and allow
the player to input their name. I'd still like to think of
more bonuses that the player can receive so as to allow a
wide variety of high scores. Maybe a time bonus?
Getting a game totally done and ready for release can take
a lot more time than you think. All the little
details that need addressing must be fixed before the game
is "done". I could probably finish up the game itself in a
few more hours work. Then I need to finish up the web
pages here that will host the tracking of high scores. And
I still need to sit down and crank out some alternative
graphics for the walls, player, ghosts, and so on.
This weekend I put in the Tournament Mode. In this mode
the high scores for each level are tracked. I want to
create all new levels specific to this mode (add that to the
to-do list). I could just take the ones that people made for
the real game, but they weren't designed with the Tournament
Mode in mind. Plus none have the warp tunnels or slow tiles
that were added recently.
I've figured out how I'll handle the time bonus. At
the start of the level a counter will be at 100%. After
some delay, depending on the size of the level, it will
begin slowly counting down. Then at the end of the level
your score will be multiplied by this percentage, whatever
it ends up being. It's very similar to what Yak did in
Bovver 2 and works well for the situation here. The
player will need to choose whether to go for more bonus
points (like ghosts) or finish quickly for a higher
And I finished Spy Hunter. The last mission is
tough, but very long and fun. I hope they make a sequel.
Chomp now accepts high scores and gives you a verification
code. You'll take the code to the
on this site (which is currently empty) to submit your high
Also, the time bonus is in there. It replaces the
"players remaining" indicator at the bottom of the screen
when you are in Tournament Mode. You can die as many times
as you like in this mode - it doesn't keep track or penalize
your score. However the clock keeps ticking all the while
so you're wasting time while watching the death animation.
I'm sure there will be cases where it is still faster to die
and get reset than to tranverse the maze. I consider that a
valid tradeoff the player must make.
There's just a few more things to tidy up and then I'll
work on the web site and get some more graphics drawn.
Just plodding through fixing bugs and cleaning things up
for Chomp's eventual release. I have one more major
locking bug to fix, but I think I have it isolated. I
think it's some memory overrun problem, but will know
more when I get a chance to get back to debugging.
Sunday evening was spent having dinner with some
relatives. One of Gwen's aunts was in town so we met up
for dinner in Oakland. It's a great place to meet since
that is where Gwen's brother lives and is about half way
between us in Mountain View and her mom in Davis.
The best reason, however is
Zachary's Chicago Pizza.
This is by far the best pizza I have had. I really
need to go to Chicago some time and see how it stacks up to
the real deal. I can't imagine pizza getting better than
Zachary's. It's a good thing we don't live near there or
else I'd need to jog every day to work off the extra
I fixed the bug mentioned yesterday. It was due to a
stray array index overwriting memory it shouldn't have.
That's the last bug I am aware of.
I have one more feature to add before calling the game
complete. I want to let the player play the game with
the levels in random order. Right now you can only go
sequentially so you'll rarely see the upper levels at all.
Random mode works as advertised. I spent the rest of
the time I had (which wasn't much) creating new wall
graphics. I must say I'm rather proud with how one of
them turned out. Of course that's on my dinky little
13-inch TV I use for development. We'll see how people
like it when played on their big 32-inch monsters. I
also made a second wall set that unintentionally looks
like vines and started on a third set that will
eventually be pipes (the plumbing kind, not the smoking
I've been fixing the
making links and images work correctly, and migrating
content from the old Insider here. I have everything up to
October 1998 done. It has been quite a nostalgia trip
rereading all those old posts!
I sent out the first beta of Chomp to Kevin at
He quickly found a couple issues, but nothing super
terrible so far. Things appear to be on track for a real
release sometime this week. I want to add more graphics
and tweak a couple things first. I also need to figure out
a way to grab screenshots. I put code in there to do just
that, but since everything in NUON is YCrCb rather than RGB
I still need to make a color converter before they will come
As you can tell by the above I'm releasing Chomp for NUON.
I hope people find it fun and challenging. I also made the
active with some info on the game. I'll get some
screenshots up there as soon as I can.
For those wondering what this whole Chomp thing is,
here's a shot for you. Very Pac-man-ish don't you think?
You are that green blob in the center (you can change
your player image to make it even more like Pac-man if
The first player scores are starting to
I've added a few new features to the Chomp
First, there's a screenshot for every level. Plus I added
navigation links that let you go to the next/previous
level without having to hit BACK. I also tried to make
the top scorer of each level stand out more by putting
them in a larger font and a different background. Finally,
just recently I added a table to the main page that lists
the five most recent scores that have been submitted. (It
won't show up until someone enters a score [EDIT: Ah,
there it is].)
I'm also still adding content to the game. I made a
couple more wall graphics, some new enemy sprites, new pill
images, and a couple more sound effects. I want to get a
bunch more levels made so that the Tournament Mode isn't
limited to just six.
I found an undesireable feature (aka "bug"), but am
probably not going to fix it since doing so would change
the dynamics of the game. I don't want to change anything
that would potentially affect scores in tournament mode.
It's not a bad bug - it just causes some strange enemy
It's that time again. The new season of
Mole is upon us (after an extended haitus). Actually
the season is half over. So it's time for my impressions
of each of the participants and who I think could be the
- Al -
Yes - he's one of my top picks, but not for
any specific thing he did in the game. It's just that one
of the episodes they said they were going to give a clue to
the mole's identity. During the episode they had a game
that involved carrying wine bottles. The wine was called
"La Mole". I figure "La" is an anagram for "Al". It's a
stretch I know.
- Bill - Maybe -
But I'm leaning towards no. He seems too "real".
- Bribs - No -
He doesn't seem to be that devious. Still, I should watch
- Darwin - No -
He also seems too real.
- Dorothy -
Maybe/Yes - She's quiet and gets out of breath way too
easily. Plus she got the answers to a couple questions
out of thin air right as time was running out. Almost
like they had been given to her beforehand.
- Heather -
Maybe/Yes - She plays a good game. I haven't made up my
mind about her yet.
- Katie - No way -
Like Jennifer from
season she plays too much from the heart.
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