Midnight Riders Video Contest

September 15th, 2010

Valve has a contest going on right now where you can make a music video for the Midnight Riders song Save Me Some Sugar. As the legend goes,

The Midnight Riders need your help. We haven’t seen the Riders for a long time. We were hoping they could help us with the official release of “Save Me Some Sugar” for the upcoming DLC for Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 “The Sacrifice”.

This is the first time Left 4 Dead 1 players will get to listen to the Midnight Riders while they slay zombies. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we wanted to release on YouTube their full music video for the song. This was the very first Music Video the Riders ever made “for the MTV”.

Sadly the video was lost and the Riders aren’t helping us find it. The only thing we have left behind from the band is one of Dusty’s guitars signed by the band. Dusty was not one to accept the charity of others so he had left this with management to be sold for bail money.

This leaves us with the guitar, the song, but no video.

Here’s where you can help. Make a music video for “Save Me Some Sugar” and post it on YouTube.com with the tag L4DMNRSAVESUGAR. The best video will win the guitar signed by the MNRs and a gift pack from Valve. We will wait until October 1st 2010 to judge the winning entry, so take your time.

Should you make it live action? Use game assets? Show the Riders? Well the band would have wanted this contest to have no rules. So you choose what’s in the video – THERE ARE NO STINKING RULES*!

Given the success of my last video contest entry I decided to give this one a go. I decided on the concept of a backstory for the fallen survivor in “The Passing” campaign. So far he’s the only uncommon common infected that isn’t just a guy in uniform. There are the CEDA workers, construction workers, riot police, clowns, and mud men in the other campaigns. This made the fallen survivor unique in that he is a character. He has a unique costume. If there were other fallen survivor models in game then it would be different, but there aren’t.

The concept story I came up with was the fallen survivor before he turns. He comes home to his wife, only to find she’s been rescued. He then gets sick from a bite he got that day and realizes that he isn’t immune at all. He writes a goodbye letter to his wife should she ever come back and leaves their home to go and change.

Some of the lyrics are made interesting by the video. “One day I’ll be back” takes on new meaning as well as “save me some sugar,” which could now be interpreted as him wanting her to make sure she saves bullets to kill him should they meet after he has turned.

This is a very rough first cut. It took about 30 hours of prep, writing, shopping, prop making, set building, filming, and editing to get to this point. I’ve been putting in about 2hrs a day since this was made in After Effects and Premier to refine it as much as it needs. I’m also dedicating about 8hrs per weekend until it’s good enough or until the Oct. 1st deadline comes. If I work hard enough this weekend I might get to the 90-95% point, which I would be happy to call good in case school work picks up considerably. For now, enjoy this first cut as something of a preview. There’s no editing to this other than putting clips together in Premier, so it should look and feel quite a bit more refined when I upload the final version. Let me know what you think!

Art I Own: Cameron Moll Letterpress

September 15th, 2010

I’m a member of the LDS Church. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m also into art at least a little bit. I spend a fair amount of my online time looking at art and design blogs. Members of the Church have been advised to keep a picture of Christ and a picture of the temple prominently displayed in their homes. It’s an open, non-pushy, testament to those in their homes that we believe in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for us. It’s also a bit of a conversation starter. We want people to feel comfortable asking questions about the church so that they can hear the truth. A lot of lies and half truths float around, and it’s disappointing that people don’t find a member of the church when they want clarification.

Since I like art, and maybe even pretend to know something about it every now and then, I decided to get something a little different when I got a picture of the temple for our home.
What I ended up finding is a letterpress poster by Cameron Moll. It’s $100, which isn’t cheap, but it goes on sale fairly often for $75, which is the price I paid. I added a frame and matte and hung it on the wall. It’s pretty big with the extra large mat and 2″ frame, but I think the end result looks pretty good.

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Total price for the frame, matte board and print was around $120. Not bad for something interesting. If you want to learn more about the church, its members, and the doctrine, you can go to mormon.org. You can chat live with a member, find a nearby church building, or click around and learn about the church.

I’m a Winner!

August 21st, 2010

CoolIt ran a youtube contest where they were giving away 100 Eco ALC coolers to people who submitted a video showing what they do with their old air coolers. I took a little time and made a video.

The video isn’t anything amazing, but it makes me chuckle in that ‘I’m embarrassed’ sort of way. CoolIt liked it enough that it’s been the “today’s favorite entry” link on their site for a few days now. Well, needless to say, I won! This really isn’t saying much since only 25 or so people entered the contest. In fact, everyone who entered won! I’m pretty excited to get an ECO cooler. Thanks CoolIt! That said, when I sent them my address I also asked if they wouldn’t be willing to upgrade my prize to a Vantage ALC. I’d be willing to pay the difference and it can integrate with one of their very new products, the Maestro ESP. If I can get a Vantage and Maestro I will be sure to write a review. The Maestro looks so cool, but I won’t be able to justify the $90 price tag for a while.

Novint Falcon Grip Mod

August 21st, 2010

I’m running a contest over at a modding site (thebestcasescenario.com) and we’re doing a grip mod challenge to win a falcon. I had a few grips extra and people have been a little slow on the uptake, so I decided to do my own grip mod.

I really love the pistol grip, so I decided that I would go with a similar design, but address the issue of ground clearance. I started off with a NES era joystick.

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The basic plan is to take the existing grip, add two more buttons, wire the buttons onto the falcon PCB and make the thing solid and look good. I took the base of the joystick apart and removed the grip portion. I started to unscrew the grip, but the thing shattered. I guess this whole thing will have to be held together with glue.

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My camera died so I couldn’t take pictures while the battery was charging, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to work on the thing!

I needed to add two buttons to the existing joystick grip. Because I’ve done some NES cases I have about a million NES controllers lying around. I got the buttons out of them and stole a power and reset switch from a computer case I have lying around and got the buttons working with the same satisfying click the NES joystick buttons have.

I soldered up all the buttons on the Falcon board. There’s no need to remove the stock falcon buttons, you can just add your own right on top. Remember, if you solder the leads diagonally you will always get a complete circuit when you press your button.

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I then cut all the extra crap off the old grip. I don’t want it to look like it was ever there when I’m done, so I want it to be about as thin as the new grip. I’ll add some styrene plastic around the whole mod to dress it up and then I’ll paint it and maybe do some gunmetal stuff or something. (I don’t know I’ll cross that bridge when I get there!)

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With everything wired in in the grip portion it was time to run the wires up to the part of the grip that connects to the falcon itself. I decided to go with PVC because I know it isn’t going to fall apart when I’m using it. The Falcon can pack a punch so the grip needs to be strong.

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I then soldered the wires and glued the mangled remains of the original grip to the PVC.

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It’s not done, but it works. I did some play testing and it was obvious some things weren’t aligned properly. I’ve mostly got it fixed now. Tomorrow I’ll build a styrene shroud and get it prepped for paint. I’ll be finishing my GlaDos speakers too. Those have been waiting for far too long. I also have to make a video for that CoolIt contest. I really want an ECO cooler. Oh so busy!

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Finally, here’s a really quick video of me playing with the grip before I fixed the alignment issue.

$15 Dell XPS case at surplus sale.

August 13th, 2010

I picked up this case today at a WSU surplus sale for $15. I’m pretty excited about it. The big problem with it is that it isn’t ATX standard, but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed. After I get a few other things done I think I’ll modify this and get my rig put inside it.

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Ran a red light, but I don’t think it’s my fault.

July 14th, 2010

I’m from Moscow, ID and a few weeks ago my wife and I were spending the day in Spokane, WA. We were driving to the mall when I encountered a very strange intersection. There was a bridge ahead, so the upcoming intersection could not be seen. To compensate for this, the city of Spokane put up one of those “signal ahead” signs and some indicators to tell you the status of the upcoming light. I saw the warning indicator start to blink red so I started to slow down (for an intersection presumably 100 or so feet ahead).

This is confusing because a blinking red light is a standard US symbol for a stop sign. It was then that I realized that the signal ahead sign was not warning of some unseen intersection 100-150ft ahead, but of an intersection literally one car length after hidden by the shadow of the bridge.

It was at this point, decelerating but traveling at 31mph, that I decided that slamming on my breaks would only result in a dangerous stop with me in the middle of the intersection and that continuing through the intersection would be the safest course of action.

About a week later I get a ticket in the mail. Luckily, there’s a video so you can all see how strange this intersection is.

If you want to see the intersection in google maps you can type in “S Division and E Sprague Spokane WA” and go to street view. Something to note here is that a simple solution to this problem would be to put up signs displaying the distance to the intersection. Here’s a screen cap if you want to be lazy.

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What are your thoughts? Is this as confusing as I’m making it out to be? How much should I be at fault for this?

Why I “Rage” Quit.

May 18th, 2010

Last week Valve asked “what rages you” in a poll in Left 4 Dead 2. The poll looked like this:

If you Rage Quit, what makes you Rage?
Vote now!

  • Other
  • Only like playing Infected
  • Never Rage Quit
  • Director unfair
  • Team disharmony
  • Skill imbalance
  • Match too long

The results showed the two top choices were skill imbalance and team disharmony and that’s pretty much what I expected. In this article I’m going to explain why I “rage” quit. Most of the reasons are more complicated than those listed in the poll, but I’ll try to touch on all of the poll items a  little bit.

Fist off, I play games to have fun. Games are fun when they are challenging, when they make me feel smart or skilled, or when they make me laugh. If a game isn’t fun, I will stop playing. Any time I “rage” quit, it has a lot less to do with feeling like the Incredible Hulk, and a lot more to do with feeling bored or frustrated.

That said, the biggest reason I rage quit is the reason I voted for, team disharmony. Just last week I was playing in a public game and one of the players on my team was getting angry with the rest of us. He didn’t offer any advice (because he didn’t know how to play), and wasn’t a team player. He got more and more angry and started using the F-word a lot. One player on our team had already quit. I told the cranky player to calm down, it wasn’t a big deal, it was just a game.  He began to wax poetic about what makes him feel good. There was a lot of cussing and I can see a villain monologue coming a mile away, so I hit the mute button. I’m sure he was feeling smug and satisfied, but I wasn’t hearing a word of it. About two minutes later he finished his stupid speech and I found myself console kicked from the game.

This is something that players shouldn’t have to deal with. The only reason I stayed in the game as long as I did was because I didn’t want to be a “rage quitter.” It’s frustrating being in a position where you don’t want to add to the quitting problem, but find yourself stuck in an un-fun game. Gaming should be fun. If you are in a situation like this, quit and don’t feel bad. Let the guy lose the game alone. It really goes to show that what’s worse than a rage quitting is rage tenacity.

Another instance of team disharmony is when you have one or two players that race ahead and leave the team behind. I was in a game where two players grabbed their supplies and ran off as soon as the game started. I was ready to go, but our last teammate needed a moment. When he was finally ready the other two guys were far far ahead. We inevitably died pretty quick out of the safe room because we were hit by all four special infected. This type of gameplay can make sense. The game is currently set up to spawn the special infected close to the last survivor (in most scenarios and maps). If you hit the ‘e’ button you will rotate between different spawn points but they will all be near the last player. This gives the other players free reign to run as fast as they can with no chance of encountering the special infected. The problem with this strategy is that you lose. You will never get as many points as a team that looks after one another and makes it, even if just barely, to the safe room together. Needless to say, I told them that we were going to lose if they kept playing like that, and we did.

Rage quitting isn’t the only solution in this situation, but it’s the only one that you are in complete control of. Other solutions would include your teammates deciding to be team players, and you can encourage them, but it usually falls on deaf ears. You will get a lot of criticism for being a bad player, but don’t believe it. Being team player is always, always the best way to play. You will win more often and even if you lose your team will lose together, and usually be okay with it. A solution that is completely out of my control is to have Valve update the game so that hitting the ‘e’ button while spawning teleports you between the different survivors. This simple change would make it so that rushing and leaving teammates behind inevitably gets you killed, instead of giving you a free pass to the safe room.

The second big reason I rage quit is not skill imbalance, but what happens when there is skill imbalance. For some reason, people feel like they need to be jerks when they are winning. They will be ahead by 25pts and your screen will fill with “pwned” and “lol” and “stomped” and other versions of “you suck. I am the best and never make mistakes. You should go kill yourself you are so bad.” Skill imbalance is inevitable. It’s the whole point of VS modes. Someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. Sometimes the imbalance will be great, sometimes it will be more or less even, but there will be some imbalance. It’s what we want. What we don’t want is poor sportsmanship. The best games are the ones where people encourage each other. If you are on the winning team, typing things like “good pull” to the other team can build comradery. You can continue to win, and the other team is less likely to collectively quit, sending you back to the lobby early.

But what we really want is to have the teams as balanced as possible. Losing isn’t fun, but neither is winning if it’s too easy. What we need are matching systems. “Quick Match” shouldn’t connect you to the nearest game, but should match you to equally skilled players. Valve can take stats (and probably already does) of headshot percentages, damage done to the tank, time taken to kill the tank, special infected kills, number of times you protect a teammate, time taken to rescue a teammate, etc. All of this can be accounted into a skill level (that you don’t even need to know) that is used to match you to other players. This would fix a lot of problems of imbalance because even if members of a team aren’t equal, if the teams have equally skilled players games are more likely to be close, which is fun and exciting.

What I’ve found recently is that if I join a lobby I will try and join the team that the first few players are on. People who are willing to join a game lobby, and then wait for the lobby to fill instead of  instant gratification are usually better players. Because of that I want to be on their team, and when this happens I usually win. This also has the negative effect that if I join a lobby and I see that the top four players are all on the same team (especially if it’s infected) I will just quit and search for another lobby. Odds are that they will win, and I don’t want the odds to be against me. A solution to this problem is to create the option for an all random lobby. More games would start more quickly, and odds are the teams would be more balanced.

Gaming should be fun, and like Valve said in their follow up, the best way to avoid rage quitting is to play with friends. So go make some and start playing. To sum up, here are the ideas I covered (and some I didn’t) to help public games go more smoothly.

  • Good sportsmanship is important. Don’t be a jerk, to yours or the other team.
  • Valve, change the ‘e’ button to rotate between the survivors when spawning as a special infected.
  • Valve, create the option for all random lobbies.
  • Valve, implement a skill or rank system so that “quick match” doesn’t end up being the worst decision a player ever makes.
  • Valve, try creating a game mode where people can play as the infected or the survivors the entire time (this could help those who quit whenever they are the survivors)
  • Valve, fix the director so that the tank doesn’t spawn a mile away from the survivors so that there is no possible way to get to them before it’s turned over to the computer.
  • Valve, fix the director so that the tank doesn’t spawn in a fire, or somewhere where it is impossible to reach the survivors.

I have to give a lot of props to Valve, they really do care about fixing these problems and The Passing is so much better than what Crash Course was. The Passing is long enough, but hard and short. People complaining about matches being to long should stick to scavenge or The Passing.

Lamarr & Lamarr Print Series

March 31st, 2010

I’m working on a print series called Lamarr & Lamarr. If you miss the reference while looking at the prints I would suggest reading these articles.

I started by finding a good source image of Hedy. There are a lot of really gorgeous pictures of her on the web, but I wanted something that I could manipulate to change someone’s perception of the image. I eventually found this image. I really love the bedroom eyes and the dress hanging suggestively from her shoulders. The more I look at the photo, however, the more she looks a little ‘checked out’ and the shadow over her left eye (to our right) makes that eye look a little lazy. This was perfect for what I was going for.

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My next step was to make a quick concept sketch of what I wanted. To the left is the concept image of one print block and the right is the other image and a light outline of how it is supposed to interact with the first block. It’s rough, but I was just trying to get the concept right.

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My next step was to make detailed sketches to be transferred to the print blocks for carving. I spent a lot of time on Hedy because it needed to look like her. If I got it wrong it would suck. I cared quite a bit less about the headcrab, which is fine with me. The headcrab changes the image, but is meant to be more iconographic and representational than detailed like Hedy.

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The image above is about 4 x 4.25″. Hedy was first sketched in pencil. I then added sharpie over the areas I was confident I wanted to keep. Eventually all the areas I wanted to keep got sharpie on them. It looked good. I worried a bit about having too much detail, but figured I would cross that bridge when it came time to carving. To transfer the image to my print block I went back over everything with pencil again, making sure to put down a lot of lead, and then placed the image face down on the printing block. I then rubbed the back of the paper with the blunt end of a pencil and the image transferred well enough for me to carve.

Carving is pretty straight forward. Cut away everything but where there are pencil lines. Again for Hedy I went over the pencil lines with sharpie to make things easier. Here are the carved blocks.

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After carving you need to make some test prints. I did these and found some areas that I needed to carve a little deeper so I didn’t get ink where I didn’t want it.

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You can see some ink on Hedy’s forehead and chest, and right on her shoulder. Lamarr had issues as well. I eventually cut away most of the block leaving just the headcrab figure left with little block around it. Here are some other test prints that I’ve done.

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In the above images you can see what I’m going for with Lamarr & Lamarr, which is why I chopped off the back legs and part of the front legs on Lamarr. The final prints will have Lamarr chomping into zombie Hedy’s neck.

So, I’m working on some final prints and I’m considering maybe doing a run and selling prints or cars or whatever for $1-2 per. The question is, would you be willing to buy a print?

Day #22 Bod Mod Update.

March 23rd, 2010

I forgot to update on day 15, but things were pretty much the same. P90X, some cycling. On Saturday the 13th Chelsea and I went shooting with some friends. We played a version of bump, but with shotguns. There were also lots of rifles and pistols of varying calibers. All in all there were about a dozen people out having a good time.

Last week was spring break, so instead of working extra hard on the dieting and exercise I took a break from P90X. On Monday I pretty much did nothing but clean the apartment. It needed to have a nice deep cleaning and I was happy to do it. That night we had the missionaries over for dinner and I invited some friends over as well. It was pretty fun and relaxing.

On Tuesday my friend Ken and I got on our bicycles and headed over to Pullman. We stopped at DQ and ate whatever we wanted. I had an Oreo Cheese-quake blizzard with Butterfinger, and a crispy flamethrower chicken sandwich. It tasted pretty darn good. The entire trip was about 21-22 miles and was a pretty good workout despite all the crappy food we ate at the midway point. That night Chelsea and I went over to Ken & Chelsie’s place for burgers. We had brownies and ice cream for dessert. It was fun, but I was tired and felt a little bad. I don’t think I was a great guest because I could feel my mind drifting off.

Wednesday through Friday I just sorta farted around the apartment and internet. I played a fair amount of computer games, which was nice. By Friday I was getting a little restless and I was feeling ready to do something like mod or program or something, but didn’t. On Saturday Chelsea and I did a repeat of what Ken and I did on Tuesday. Again, another 21-22 miles on the bikes, and I ate the same thing I did on Tuesday at DQ.

Today I weighed myself. 204.8 lbs. Not awful considering all the crap I ate and the fact I was pretty inactive for the week, but I’m not losing weight and the first month is getting close to being over. It’s also not enough of a loss to be confirmed as fat. It could just be water. Darn. I gotta recommit myself. I fall out of my routine so easily. I guess the thing I gotta do it just get back on it.

I didn’t do P90X today. My last class got out at 12:20, and there were “first come first serve” interviews in Pullman for summer jobs on the WSU campus starting at 1:30. About 11 miles and one hour later I got to the building. There was a large line forming already, but I filled out an application and had three interviews for different positions on campus. I’m about 99% sure that I have a job maintaining the grounds during the summer. If I don’t get that then I’m almost positive that I’ll get a custodial position. After the interviews I headed to Chelsea’s work and she gave me a ride home. My total biking distance was 12.8 miles. Nice!

Day 8 Bod Mod Update: I’m fatter!

March 9th, 2010

Alright so it has been one week. I think it is better to post weekly updates instead of daily. Thursday I got a bicycle and it was a very busy day anyway, so P90X just plain didn’t happen. My wife and I went bowling with some friends that night as well and I had buffalo wings, which aren’t bad as long as they aren’t the deep fad fried version (they weren’t). The bad thing was that I ate too many. I felt pretty gross after.

Friday I skipped P90X on account of my new bike and went riding instead. I love the feeling of your muscles getting hotter and hotter as you do a repetitive motion such as cycling. It’s just so good.

I didn’t do a proper workout Saturday either, but I went and played paintball for about five hours, so I don’t feel bad at all.

Sunday is the day of rest, so that’s exactly what I am going to do every Sunday. No work or workout for me. Just worship, meditation, relaxation, and family time.

Now for the results of one week of working out and eating better. I weighed myself again after doing P90X Chest and Back. 207.3! There are a few options for what is happening. One: I ate fish and rice for dinner. It’s low fat, high protein food and I ate quite a bit. Two: While working out I try to drink plenty of water. I easily have a spare half gallon or more in my stomach when I weigh in. Three: I am replacing the fat with muscle. It’s possible, although I don’t really have faith that this is the case. Four: I am gaining muscle and keeping the fat. This is more likely, but unwanted. I would rather lose fat and gain no muscle if I had a choice between three and four. Five: I am just getting fatter. This one is also a possibility, although it is quite unlikely considering that I am doing a lot more activity and eating so much better.

When I weighed in earlier this week to see if I would be allowed to eat a brownie I was at 204, so I’m pretty sure this is just a full stomach sort of thing. It’s still not very encouraging.