Thursday, December 5, 2013

Some Observations About Blender

I just wanted to share a few of my observations as I proceed through Neal Hirsig's Blender Tutorials. I thought it might be an interesting read, and may be even a little enlightening.

I should mention that I used 3DS Max exclusively for roughly a decade. Since version 5 to about version 8, with some dabbling in the new 2010 release, I have made models for a village in the trees and architectural pieces for my Unreal Tournament 2004 levels.

I should also mention that my first exposure to Blender, outside of watching my friend try to use it some years ago, was Blender 2.49. It was a nightmare and I came to hate the program that seemed to, on purpose, do everything backwards. I tried writing a book as I attempted to learn this iteration of Blender, had an editor and everything lined up, but I could bot follow through. It left a bad taste in my mouth. I think I even stated somewhere that I would never use Blender again, probably with a fair sprinkling of expletives.

Things have changed. I have changed. I am not physically, if scientists are to be believed, completely the same person I was back in 2006-2008. Cells grow and die in the physical body. I was a Christian then, I have since left the Christian faith and all religions. I learned how to lucid dream, astral project, and see the world in a different way. I stopped mapping and modeling, I change my user name and presence on the web. I used to be depressed all the time, and I was angry, occasionally lashing out in rage. I contemplated suicide. I thought there was no reason for me to live, no hope.

I came out of all of that, and the work I made with these mindsets, beliefs and thoughts, to this point in my life. Just starting to get interested in level design and modeling again. Looking forward to seeing what I can make with my current mindset. Trying to use all free tools.

The free tools also changed. Gimp is pretty much on par with Photoshop now. Blender's interface no longer makes me want to run away in terror. The UDK, CryEngine 3 and Unity 3D are all freely available to use with a few limitations. If I want to make music I have LMMS and Audacity. There are actual books on Blender and Gimp as well as video tutorials at YouTube.

The old way of searching for help, joining forums, asking questions and hoping for a timely, relevant answer are fading. Now everyone is making tutorials, sharing their knowledge. It's just a lot easier to get help and to learn things. Back when I started with Unreal I had to get the ball rolling on the tutorials. There was very little information out there as I recall. I made my tutorials series for a site I ran then, called UnrealED Exordium, and that earned me a place at Gamespy. I ran several versions of the Nucleus, added to the tutorials I had done, and even, towards the end. made a few video tutorials.

Now UnrealED Exordium, The Nucleus, Nali City and a bunch of other familiar things have come and gone. Gamespy stopped hosting, I lost my website. I moved, stopped playing games so much, I started years ago playing Quake online. But my focus changed from playing games to making my own things. And now we come to the subject of this post, Blender.

My initial return to Blender came about in my interest in using software legitimately. I found the remains of the Uru community and I wanted to start making my own ages. I think I still do by my focus has changed. I tried DelED and Platinum Arts Sandbox (Qube 2) before that.

To make an age for Uru you have to, essentially, use Blender as your level editor. It has been tough and I am glad I found Neal's tutorials. Because as of yesterday, following his 3D Design Course, I found myself suddenly able to understand this formerly cryptic program.

For so many years I worked in a Quad View, staring with Deathmatch Maker for Quake, continuing to Unreal, and 3DS Max. When I tried to learn Blender 2.49 my first struggle was getting that view the way I wanted. But over the last few days I realized something. I don't need that quad view anymore!

Over and over in all the Blender Tutorials of any quality you find that teach you the program, they tell you to learn the shortcut keys. This is valuable advice, and the key to unlocking everything. Because now I know I can simply press NUM7 for a Top View, and NUM5 to make it Orthographic. I can work with a single window, allowing me to see a lot more and giving me much more workspace, and anytime I need another view I can simply select it with the NUM keys.

Tool menus, as of the newer versions of Blender, are accessed with the press of a T or N. Easy. Panning is Middle-Click + Shift and drag. Still learning my way around the camera. But again, its shortcut keys that are the key.

Menus are also brought up with a simple sequence of keys, occasionally a complex set of them, but its still less tedious than Max. I used to be a menu guy. But Blender is not really a menu program. I mean the menus are there, but its designed more for shortcut key usage than menus. Well Blender, as far as I know, was not originally a Windows program, and Windows, as an OS, has always been menu driven. Blender is shortcut driven, and the sooner yo figure that out the better off you will be.

Next thing is configuring Blender. My advice - don't! Now I have to have my normal Left Mouse click instead of the Right Mouse. But more and more, all the things I had to do to configure Blender the way I wanted, it just makes things more difficult. Blender will let you do things your way to a certain extent, but you will suffer the consequences!

For example I used to enable the snaps. I was also always an "on the grid" guy. I remember in my reviews of Unreal Tournament maps I would always check to see if the mapper placed things on the grid. I don't know the driving motivation or mindset here. Why things had to be on the grid for me. I think perhaps I used to be that way, in a sense, in life as well. Was I afraid of getting lost?

Blender is designed for the artist that used to be the two-year old who liked to color outside the lines and use red to color whales. The sooner you understand this, the better. I have found that leaving the snaps off I don't actually miss it! I can always press and hold CTRL, but generally I no longer use snaps! Now this may change when I am trying to build a house model or something. But I am more relaxed now and able to leave things at their defaults.

Same for viewing the wireframe of a model. Just press Z. Bam! I tried to so hard for so long to make Blender work like UnrealED. But that's really like trying to mate a cow with a horse. Maybe it will work, I don' know, but generally we can assume that they are two different beasts! So no more turning faces off as I instructed in my Blender Age Builder series. In fact that whole series is fast becoming irrelevant and I may have to scrap the thing and start over. We'll see.

More and more it's just becoming easier with Blender as I let go of my old ways of thinking and doing things. I used to spend hours making and extruding complex shapes to make my meshes. As I follow Neal's tutorials I am slowly coming to understand Box modeling, which is really what Blender specializes in. Again I can do shape modeling in Blender, bend it to my will, but I will end up spending hours searching for help to obscure problems and trying to make something. If I would just use Blender as designed I could make the same thing in less time and just as well!

I hope these words give you something to think about if you starting out in Blender or struggling with it. I will be, in time, making a variety of tutorials for this program, starting a I think with a set of spiral stairs. I think I know how I can do them in Blender, quick and easy. But the main thing I want to bring across in my teachings, starting now, is that you should try, as much as possible, to use Blender the way it was designed.

You may not like that at first. It may bug you. It bugged me. But if you can't bend you will break, plain and simple. I strongly encourage you to learn how to be flexible, in body, mind and spirit. Just because you have thought one way about something doesn't mean there aren't other, perhaps better, ways to think about it. Just because you have always done something in a certain way is no reason to try a different way. Force uses a lot of energy and will wear you down. Flow uses little energy, beyond the will applied, and will wear down whatever opposes indirectly over time.

In all your work, whether it be mapping, modeling or the job you go to every day, think water rather than wrecking ball. If you are a wrecking ball, throwing yourself against all opposition, you will get beat up. Sure you will tear down, destroy, turn your opposition into rubble. But you will damage yourself in the process, and it takes longer to rebuild from rubble than to use what already exists. Better to be water, flowing around, over, and under your opposition, leaving little if any trace behind, using little energy, yet having the power to wear away all obstacles in your path. You use less energy, in fact you even use your opponent's energy against them, and you overcome without having to destroy.

Remember Destruction is the antithesis of Creation and an expression of Hate. Creation is the antitheses of Destruction, and an expression of Love. If you operate on destructive energy, like I did, you hurt yourself and others. But if you operate on create energy, you help yourself, and others. Approach all your pursuits in life with creativity as the driving force and your motivation. Seek to create, not to destroy. You will be a much happier person, of that I can speak from experience.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why I Am Never Buying An Xbox One

You were probably expecting a big long post here. There is no need. The reasons I am not buying an Xbox One are the same reasons I am not buying a PS4. If I am given either console before Christmas, I will sell it and buy presents for my family.

To me the new consoles are garbage. I don't care about the new games. As I said in my other article, I have been a gamer all my life and will continue to be one. But I am done with console gaming. I quit. Sony and Microsoft can go screw themselves!

I still remember how things went down. Microsoft screwed things up with one of the companies making parts for the Xbox, so the Xbox 360, using different architecture, was not able to be backwards compatible outside of emulation. Well they have no such excuse this time. This time they chose, they actually chose, to change the architecture again.

It seems to me that the two companies, Sony and Microsoft, are copying with each other, looking to the other seeing how they have dome something, and doing the same. One company is getting away with no backwards compatibility, so the other can. One company is getting away with online only multiplayer games, throwing out split-screen offline multiplayer, so the other can too. On and on.

I haven't checked, but I'll bet most of the games promised to be on the 360, like Elveon, never arrived. Sony does the same, releasing sequels to Japan only or worse, releasing the sequels to the US but never the first games in a series.

Enough ranting.  am investing my energy in my DREAM.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why I Am Never Buying A PS4

I Am a gamer. Let me get that out of the way first. I love playing video games, I love making maps and models for them, and I love to play multiplayer. I pre-ordered the XBox 360 and Quake 4, I purchased a PS3, I have numerous games on my computer right now, I still own a Dreamcast, PS2, and Xbox, which is sitting under my TV right now. I have dozens of titles for these various consoles. I even have a Sega Saturn and a dozen or so titles for that!

I have played split-screen multiplayer for hours on the Dreamcast with my friends, I have played various James Bond split-screen multiplayer games drunk and high, I have played a handful of titles including Halo co-op, I spent countless nights playing Everquest (AKA Evercrack) and the first two Quake games. I have been playing video games for over a decade. So when I say I am a gamer, I mean it.

But I will not buy a PS4!

Here's why:

1. You can only play multiplayer online, and you have to pay for that privilege. Since as of the PS3 split-screen multiplayer games were declining rapidly, I'll bet its a safe assumption that there are no, and will be no, split-screen multiplayer games on the PS4.

I have been informed by the commenter below that there are split-screen multiplayer games. I do not know if the console has to be hooked up to the internet or not in order to play split-screen. In other words, is it split screen online or offline? If the split-screen is online only, do you still have to use the pay-for service?

Also I should mention that I gathered the information about Sony's pay-for online multiplayer service from another article. If this is incorrect someone let me know and I will change my statement accordingly.

2. You can't play your PS3 games on the PS4. This sucks because like Hollywood the video game industry suffers from sequalidus, so you will end up having to play most of your games in the middle of the storyline if you never played the earlier PS3 or PS2 titles in the series.

This bugs me, because I don't pick up a book and read it from the middle. I want to go from beginning to end. But not only does the game industry insist on making sequels, it refuses to re-release older titles on newer systems, especially titles released only in Japan. I can make another safe assumption here that there will be no "updated for the console" re-release of any titles released on older systems, and that most of the titles released on the PS4 will continue some storyline or be sequels of titles released on older systems.

I am thinking mostly here of the few role-playing games that made it to the US on the PS2 and the PS3. I forgot to mention that some games were updated and re-released, mostly as online downloads as I recall, for the PS3. But these were mostly major titles.

I guess I should clarify here using an example... The original Time Splitters, Red Faction, Extreme G, Myst/Riven, etc. games were never remade for the PS3, updated to utilize all the features of the PS3 including HD. Instead what we saw was a new Wipeout and new Red Faction games. In other words in the majority of cases the old games were not remade in complete 3D with next-gen technology and using HD graphics. Instead we either recieved sequels or reimagining of old releases.

Case in point... Did you ever find Gothic 1-3 on the PS3? How about Extreme G 1-3? Quake 1-3? Morrowind? Don't you think it would have been nice to see a fully 3D, HD version of Quake, completely remade using new technology while staying fundamentally the same game? Released in a package with Quake 2 and Quake 3, featuring offline split-screen multiplayer and online multiplayer? I would buy that, without hesitation. But what did you get? Quake 4 and Quake Wars.

Now story doesn't really matter in FPS and Racing games. But we saw a number of RPGs come over from Japan that were sequels to games released for older systems like the PS2 or for Japan-only audiences on the same system. In these cases it would have been nice to have all of these older titles either remade for the new systems and re-released to US audiences or translated into English, packaged up and released to US audiences.

Another issue here is that Sony is setting a precedent that the other game console companies most likely will follow. Why should Microsoft make the XBox One backwards compatible of Sony didn't? Microcrap will figure that if Sony got away with it they can too, and vice-versa..

I will always be a gamer at heart. I may never make it into the video game industry or make my own console system as a big FU to Sony and Microsoft, but there will probably always be at least one game on my computer until my last day in this physical body.

But there will no longer be any new console system under my TV. In fact, if someone gave me a PS4 I would sell it and buy Christmas presents for my family. I'm tired of broken promises (which, to be honest, were more of a Microsoft specialty) and I am tired of companies taking away the things I love and enjoy. But over all of that I am tired of everyone trying to stuff their hands down my pockets by giving some basic version of this or that which does not have the features I or anyone else would want, and if I want those features I have to pay for them.

The game industry has gotten too big, and gamers seem to be driven solely by loyalty and pretty graphics. Few take a stand, few put the game industry in its place, and few care. Most of the gamers out there take whatever the game industries or console companies dish out.

Well I am done, and I am not going to invest any more energy or money into this

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monsanto Corp Now Backing No On 522!

If you live in Washington you need to know about this. Monsanto is now backing the No on 522 campaign. All total detractors have raised $22 million against 522, while its backers, real organic farmers among others (not the fake ones you see in the TV ads) have only raised $6.8 million. Other companies backing No on 522 include ConAgra Foods Inc., PesiCo Inc., Coca Cola Co., Nestle SA, General Mills Inc. and Hershey Co. This is according to today's issue of The Columbian.

It's very simple. When huge corporations back a No, vote Yes. If they back a Yes, vote No. The interests of all these companies are not in alignment with your own. They only care about profit, not your health and well-being. That is why they Monsanto has forced farmers to use GMO seeds that have to be purchased each year, driving them into debt. That's why they purchased Blackwater, their own private military contractors.

Monsanto now has its own military to help enforce its militaristic control of the food industry, INCLUDING the FDA. You read that correctly. The FDA is in league with these same companies I have just listed. They are a corrupt agency, no better than the mafia in their practices, and I mean that literally.
It's time for us to draw a line in the sand, now. Let's stand united and vote Yes on 522. Measure 522 does only one thing, making it the clearest measure I have ever seen. It requires genetically modified food to be labeled as containing GMO. Passing Measure 522 sets a precedent that other states will follow, and its hits these big corporations right where it hurts, in their profit line.

Stand with me to repeal Obamacare!

From a recent White House email:

"Less than a cable bill

It's no secret that the health care website hasn't worked as well as it's supposed to. But Obamacare is giving millions of Americans across the country access to quality, affordable coverage for the first time.

Today there's some great news from a Department of Health and Human Services report: Nearly half of single, uninsured Americans between 18 and 34 will be able to get health coverage for $50 a month or less.

$50 or less. That's less than a cell phone bill. It's less than a cable bill. And it means that young Americans who want coverage will be able to afford it.

Deputy Senior Advisor David Simas sat down to talk about the news -- and why it's so important that more Americans are getting the coverage they need, at a price they can afford."

I find it hilarious that whoever wrote this is comparing Health Care to a cable or cellphone bill. It's not much of a recommendation, considering the last time I saw either, for a basic package, it was over $100.00. Which, by the way, is closer to what you will actually pay for healthcare in this so-called "affordable healthcare act." I know of at least one person who looked into this and it was something like a $400.00 bill.

But how expensive, or purportedly cheap, this may is not what it is important. even $50.00 is more than the homeless person living under your bridge can afford, likewise the single man living in an apartment working at a minimum wage job.

This is extortion, plain and simple. It is essentially another tax, another fee, another charge on your bill of freedom. That same document was paid for in blood by some of your forefathers. America is no longer a free country. You are not truly free if you have to constantly pay money simply for the apparent privilege of living here, outside of your normal living expenses.

If we allow this to continue instead of taking a stand we are no better than sheep allowing the few to herd us, the many, together towards whatever fate they have in mind for us. The president works for us, the American people, as does our military and police force. But the way our politicians have acted is not in our best interest. If you had an employee stepping out of line like that you would fire them! So it is time to fire our politicians, and unfortunately Mr. Obama. It is time to throw out this ridiculous idea of Obamacare and take back our country.

We are the ones who work here, who live here, who pay for what we have with our blood and sweat. Many of us are renting our lives instead of owning them. I don't know about you, but for me it is fast becoming too expensive to live here. When I was living alone, paying for my apartment, $50.00 towards a bill meant paying the bill or going without food. I know it is worse now, and at the time I didn't even have cable!

It's time to stop being a sheep and take back your right to live here in this country freely. We once had the balls to take a stand and threw an awesome tea party. Now if we tried that we would be assaulted by police officials in riot gear. Do you actually still believe you are free? It's time to wake up and face the facts. We can take a stand, now, on this issue of Obamacare.

All you have to do is sign my petition and pass it on. Even if it never amounts to anything, at least you took a stand, and that counts for a lot. But I truly believe that if enough of us sign and flood our representatives in government with requests to repeal Obamacare we can, in true Halloween tradition, drive a stake through this things heart and kill it once and for all. Here's the link:
Repeal Obamacare

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why License Plate Reading Squad Cars are A Bad Idea

Why license plate readers are worthless.

So let's say you are a criminal. Maybe just a thug working for someone, maybe a contract killer. Doesn't matter. The first thing you know as a criminal is that you don't want to be noticed by cops. So the first thing you do is learn what the cops are doing to find people like you. Inevitably you will discover that there are cruisers out there with license plate readers. So what do you do? Simple. Steal another car. Hell, stel a dozen cars or so and leave the police chasing them all over the city. Or perhaps you simply steal a license plate from someone else's car, and give them the license plate the reader will be looking for. Now you have caused a whole bunch of confusion. Switch plates a few more times and the cops will never find you. Or, if you are really hi-tech and professional, just manufacture a plate that looks real with real looking tags that would pass visual and electronic inspection. Whatever the case may be, the cops will never find you, the license plate readers have been nullified, and you will be in and out of the city, maybe even the country, before the police ever pick up your trail.

Even the dumbest of criminals can figure this out and use it to their advantage. So the taxpayers are wasting money on this, the same as they would be if we were to pass stricter gun control laws. License plate readers can only catch non-career criminals, or really, really stupid career criminals. That's all they can do. The cost then of violating the general public's right to privacy is too high. But it gets worse.

Maybe 99% of all cops are hard working, honest people. But there are still police officers who are, "on the take" as they say in the movies. There are also police officers emotionally invested in catching someone and they will do whatever it takes, at the expense of an individual's personal rights, to find whoever they are after. So these license plate readers are at serious risk of being abused. Sure, they are not supposed to drive by mosque's. But I'll bet you, especially with terrorist activity on the rise, that they have been, will be, and are. Even the good, honest hard working cops. Why?

Simple. To a police officer it's the same US VS THEM mentality. The brothers in blue against the criminals. Muslims VS Christians. As long as any sort of division mentality exists in the mind of a person, especially a police officer, they can not be unbiased. They can not simply enforce the law, they must also execute justice. The temptation will always be there, nagging in the back of even the most rule-book following public official. Give them things like license plate reading cars and the temptation becomes stronger. They are already carrying around guns, nightsticks, taser, perhaps a shotgun and vest in the trunk. How much more power do they need?

It is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is the tendency in human beings, but it doesn't have to be the reality. I want to be clear on this. I am sure there are some officers who follow the rules, no matter what, never let emotions control them, never give in to that nagging in the back of their mind. And more officers could be like them if they wanted to. But the reality is that these truly honorable police officers are the minority.

When it comes down to it, based on past experience only, with no psychic powers telling me what the future holds, I can say that its too big a risk to give cops and others in positions of authority any more power. There should not be able to monitor us, to use cameras on us without our permission, or scan our license plates. These things can be used against us, both by the authority figures and the terrorists/criminals that they are supposedly protecting us against. It is a double-edged sword with no handle, only to cut even in defense.

Now I am not creating or investing energy into a reality where any of this happens. I live in the present moment. So all possibilities exist for the future. Which means that authority figures could all of a sudden become immune to corruptibility just as easily as they could succumb to it. Both possibilities exist. I invest my energy into a future society that is more spiritual and no longer in need of police officers or any authority figures. Where we are all so spiritually evolved that there just isn't any crime or any need to be led.

That said, at this present moment, the risk of corruption is too great, based solely on past experience, and I think these license plate reading devices should be disabled. Just as I think that gun control laws are worthless, because they only affect law-abiding citizens. A better solution needs to be found, more thought and intelligence should be put into these issues. We need to outsmart the criminal mind, not out-gun it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Another new series just started! Blender Age Builders.

In this series I show you how to make your own ages for Uru Complete Chronicles in Blender. You can see the videos and access all the necessary links here:
Blender Age Builders

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Introducing a new series - Windows 7 Quick Tips!

A new video showing you how to play SWF files has been added to a brand new page where I will list some quick tips for Windows 7. Take a look!
Windows 7 Quick Tips

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Troubles in 1080p? Here's a video with a few helpful tips for Windows 7 and Firefox!

Some time ago I had this brilliant idea to build a computer and use a 32" LCD LED TV as my monitor. It turns out that the TV works great as a TV, but not so good as a monitor. Not by any fault of its own. It has a nice bright and sharp screen. It turns out that when you use 1080p your screen real-estate gets bigger, and all your text shrinks. Unless you want to bring opera glasses back into fashion, the following video shows you a few things you can do that will help: