December 31, 2014

Books I read in 2014

It's New Year's Eve! One thing you have to do on New Year's Eve is to change your footer to 2015, and another thing is to try to sum up your year. This is the books I've read in 2014. Luckily, I've saved all of them in my Goodreads account, so it was easier than usual to remember the books. 

  1. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses
  2. The Engineer: Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars
  3. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
  4. The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
  5. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
  6. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
  7. Stjärnklart
  8. Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed
  9. Ordets makt och vanmakt - mitt skrivande liv
  10. The Animator's Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles, and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators
  11. Det Nya Afrika
  12. No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War
  13. The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science and the Human Brain
  14. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
  15. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
  16. Ultimate Sales Machine
  17. Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising
  18. Från Holmes till Sherlock
  19. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big : Kind of the Story of My Life
  20. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
  21. SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
  22. Think Like a Freak
  23. Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II
  24. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

December 28, 2014

Tesla Motors Simulator Update - Model X


The first car made by Tesla Motors was the Roadster (right), the second car was the Model S (middle), and the third car will be Model X (left). That car is not yet ready for delivery (I think they have some problems with the doors) so you have to wait unity 2015/2016 before you can drive one - until today when I added the Model X to my Tesla Simulator.

Model X might be a big car (7 people can sit in it), but it was not that difficult to make a 3D-model in Blender. One reason was that I didn't have to make any rear-view mirrors because Model X has cameras instead of traditional mirrors. 

Also, the Model X and the Model S are almost the same car, so I could reuse the wheels and I could recall some of the design features from the time when I made the Model S.

Another thing I learned was to improve the performance and looks of the lightning while night-driving. I have previously used a "real" light source, but I noticed that most games, including Grand Theft Auto, use a texture.

Looks interesting? You can test it here

December 22, 2014

Tesla Motors Simulator Update - Model S Textures

There's a saying in the 3D modeling industry: "Mesh is only one letter away from Mess!" A mesh is the name of the 3D model and they tend to become a bit messy as you add more and more details. Also, if you are creating a 3D model for a game, you can't add too many details or the game will run really slow. So in the end you will end up with a mesh that's both messy and boxy. Luckily, you can hide most flaws with textures. 

To learn both Blender and Unity, I decided to develop a simulator where you can drive electric cars from Tesla Motors. I have experience from modeling vehicles in 3D, but not so much experience from painting textures for these models. This weekend I decided to finally learn how to add textures. This is the result:

And this is the result in Blender:

Looks interesting? You can test it here.

December 10, 2014

Tesla Motors Simulator Update - Roadster

The car company Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 with the vision to build hundreds of thousands of electric cars. But the problem with that vision was that it is super-expensive to build so many cars, so they couldn't afford and neither had they the experience they would need. To solve this problem they decided to begin with a few (but expensive) electric cars. The result was the Roadster, which I've now added to my Tesla Motors Simulator. (The model is not 100 percent complete yet so I will improve it in the future).

I've also noticed that it's easy to get stuck when you are driving either the Roadster or the Model S, so I added a hovering function. I believe the co-founder of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, believes that we in the future will have flying cars.

While experimenting I also tested to make a monster truck version:

December 8, 2014

Kill Your Thoughts - or how to make a game in 48 hours

The goal of the Ludum Dare competition is to make a simple game in 48 (or 72) hours. I believe the organizers run the competition about three times per year - and the prize money is nothing more than the honor. This was the third time I participated in the competition, you can read about the other times here: Max Manus, and Battle of Khe Sanh.

As you don't make any money from the competition, the idea is that you should learn something and/or maybe test an idea you have that you may sell as a complete game in the future. You will also get feedback on the game from other participants in the competition. What I learned this time was to not update any software before the competition. I updated Unity to a new version and realized that some of the old features had been replaced with new, so it took a while from the actual game design to learn these new features. While making the game, I also found a few other ideas I will try to test in a near future.

One of the things I learned from the last competition was that a theme from a real war is not a good idea, especially not the Vietnam war if you are going to market your game in the US. So in this competition I decided to make a game where you kill, but you are killing your "bad thoughts," thus the name "Kill your thoughts." This is the description:
You are participating in a competition where you are making a game in 48 hours. If you are participating in such a competition you have to be able to fight thoughts like visiting Twitter, or drink beer, and feelings like "My cat makes better games than me!" To help you fight these feelings, your mind is actually using an armored Saab on the top of your screen.

...and this was the result (You can test it here):

December 4, 2014

Breaking down the seven-year development of Antichamber by Alexander Bruce

Antichamber is a successful computer game developed by an Australian guy named Alexander Bruce (His Twitter: @Demruth). It has sold more than 750 000 copies. Less than a million copies might not sound impressing, but the game is a so-called indie game, which is defined as:
Independent video games (commonly referred to as indie games) are video games created by individuals or small teams generally without video game publisher financial support. Indie games often focus on innovation and rely on digital distribution. Indie gaming has seen a rise in the latter half of the 2000s decade, primarily due to new online distribution methods and development tools.

Another successful indie game is Minecraft (sold for more than $2 billion to Microsoft). While some modern games need $500 million and an army of developers to complete their games, many of these indie games are far from that expensive. Minecraft began as a game developed at home in the evenings and with a marketing budget of nothing else than a website on the Internet. 

But back to Antichamber. We know much about Minecraft (there are books, articles, documentaries, etc), but we know less about Antichamber. But the developer of Antichamber gave a good talk this year with the topic "Breaking down the seven-year development of Antichamber." You can find it here and part 2 is here.

Here are some key points from the talk:
  • As the topic of the talk suggests, it took 7 years to develop the game. So much for easy money and overnight success. Making games is hard.
  • "Luck is what happens when preparations meets opportunity." We often use luck to describe things we don't understand. You might first say that Alexander Bruce succeed just because he was lucky, but then you don't know what he did during the 7 years it took to develop the game. Luck is just a multiplier of your efforts. If luck is in everything, then factor it out of everything. So if you ignore luck, you have to take everything else more seriously. In the end, you can succeed without luck, but luck will make you succeed more.
  • His first idea of a game he wanted to make wasn't Antichamber as we know it today - he began with smaller experiments. "How would Asteroids looks like in 3D?" 
  • Do something radically different. You have to make something that is different than what everyone else is making. Antichamber is the first game of its kind. Ask yourself: "What makes me different?" This is related to an earlier article where the entrepreneur Peter Thiel said that you should always own your market.
  • Festivals are a great way to get noticed, so visit them all - and hand out cards to a lot of people.
  • Learn from other people's mistakes.
  • Fake it till you make it! Stop doubting yourself by saying, "I'm not a programmer," or, "I'm not a designer." If you want to be someone - start being someone right now!
  • You have to be able to explain your game in ways that someone who has never played it before understands it.
  • You need to be able to watch how people are playing your game, so you can understand your users. Remember that data without any physical observations can give you wrong information. "The moment I start tracking the data, then I'm going to track the wrong thing. People track what's easy to track." What you need to see is the player's face.
  • Calm down! If you rush too fast, you will not make it till the end.
  • If you just look at the successful people, you can miss 90 percent of the story! (If 90 percent fail) 
  • The name of the game is important.
  • Make the best game for the best platform (like PC). If you from the beginning want to add the game to Xbox, PlayStation, etc, it will use time you could have used to improve the game.
  • But when you have a good game, the high expectations of the game might lead you to depression. Alexander Bruce actually had a small mental breakdown. But so did other successful indie game developers (as seen in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie)
  • It's common to feel jealous of other successful games.
  • A good way to market you game is to let someone who is popular on YouTube play it.