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Festival of Chocolate

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Trapper Zoid

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Happy Easter everyone who subscribes to the appropriate religion - for
those of you who don't, I hope you can use today as an excuse for eating lots of chocolate.

I'm currently staying with family back in my home city of Melbourne. I'm here for a few more days than I feel necessary due to me captialising on the cheaper mid-week flights - although that plan fell through a bit on my trip here when I missed my flight due to the local taxi company's inability to send a taxi to me within a hour (twice, as it happened again with my second flight although thankfully I had a backup plan for that one). As such while I'm chilling out today I'll be back into working tomorrow, which is a lot easier now I have a laptop.

One thing I have been doing in the last couple of days is finally playing around with Inkscape for vector art on my Macbook Pro. I've been meaning to step up my practice of retro style cartoon art by using a vector art package instead of just pencil on paper, but I always managed to distract myself when I was in Canberra. Now I've got the time to sit back and just play with nodes.



Here's a simple sketch I threw together which shows the style. It's got a few too many flaws for my liking, such as the hands (the right hand, left from your point of view, seems a little bit small to me), and I'm not that sure whether I need to put some more detail marks on the figure such as lines on the clothes and shoes. But it's a good practice picture to get used to the retro look. The main problem with my pictures at the moment is that there are very similar to the ones in Christopher Hart's book that I'm using as a guide - I'll need to work on my art a lot more until I find my own style that I'm comfortable. But this style has the advantage that's it's a great fit with vector graphics. I'm still a little slow with the Inkscaping but I'm assuming that's due to a bit of rustiness and unfamiliarity with the laptop as well as the style.My impression of Inkscape on my MacBook Pro is that it isn't that bad, but it isn't quite the same as using it with Windows on PC. For a start, it's using the Linux style key binding such as Ctrl as the dominant metakey instead of Option - that is the same as with Windows, but I'm now used to using Option+C for copy under the Mac. Also the window bar isn't integrated into the top like native Mac apps. It's just a slightly alien look and feel.

Secondly some commands just don't seem to work, such as the Ctrl-Alt-Click to create a new node. Thankfully there's a duplicate for that one (just double click on a line with the node tool), but it's a bit annoying.

Thirdly and the most irritating is the stability seems to have gone down a notch. The Windows version only seemed to crash occasionally (mostly with the text tool which has always seemed bugged), and usually with a backup save. The Mac OS version seems to crash fairly often (also a lot with the text tool but not exclusively), and never seems to be able to save a backup. Given there isn't an autosave feature it means you need to paranoidly mash Ctrl-S every few minutes so you don't lose your work. That's a real pain when you get into the flow of art work.

Given I'm committed to vector graphics I'm considering looking around for another vector art package that's a bit more Mac friendly. While I'm here in Melbourne I'm making use of the generosity of family and their considerably better internet connection to download heaps of stuff, including a trial version of Adobe Illustrator CS for Macs. However Illustrator is extremely pricey by my standards; I'm not sure even if Illustrator is fantastic I can justify paying more than my PC for a piece of software. I might have to look around some more at other cheaper vector software packages, although it's hard to find ones that are significantly better than Inkscape. There are a bunch of reasons to use SVG rather than a proprietary file format, such as future integration with my game engine.

I've also downloaded a whole bunch of patches for the games I recently picked up. Waiting to buy PC games until they hit the bargain bins has extra advantages over the low price - I get to play them with less bugs too [smile]. The main conundrum now is when I get around to play Rome: Total War should I play plain old vanilla Rome: Total War first or install the Rome: Total Realism mod first. The bits of me that love balanced game play and ancient history are duelling over that one.

The Great Games Experiment
One final question - The Great Games Experiment. I see lots of you have little gamer cards from that tagged into your journals. I've skimmed through the website myself lately and I'm not sure exactly what it is. What exactly is The Great Games Experiment and should I join up too?
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GGE is a social networking site for indie game developers -- think of MySpace but with the suicidal teen emos replaced by awesome videogames.

My only big concern is that Garage Games has their fingers in the pie way too heavily for my taste, which drives away non-Torque users, and that a lot of users only exist to submit commercial games and casual indie games to the site, as opposed to quirky indie "core" titles.

Regardless, I've gotten a lot of good feedback from it, and the Groups feature definitely should be on the priority path for future gamedev improvements, because it's awesome.

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Ah, that makes sense. That's the impression I was getting from the site, however with a name like "Great Games Experiment" I wasn't sure if it was something more; it sounds like the sort of place that would cater more to experimental indie style games.

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