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Current Projects: Americana Engine (Game Engine Development)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Brief History of Message Boxes (in Americana Dawn)

The dialogue box appearance in Americana Dawn has changed over the years, and a bit more dramatically in the months after I came in and built a custom engine.

First two panels: The first one was used as a custom message box displayed in the RPGMaker Engine (The Long Goodbye). The other one was probably a photoshopped mockup, but I don't know for sure. (I didn't receive a copy of a build that displayed message boxes)

Panels three and four: First one was the photoshopped mockup that I needed to implement in-game. The closest I could do was in the panel below (this includes recreating the drop shadows, quality reduced since it need to redraw the shadow in realtime up to 60 times per second)

Panels five and six: Panel five is the photoshop mockup version. I recreated it and added a bit of additional features in the next panel. Said colored text are not the exact rgb values in yet another mockup, but I manually adjusted it for readability purposes. Drop shadows are part of the bitmap font. Said font is not monospaced so there were a few tweaks made with letter placement in the bitmap to improve performance while keeping uniform spacing between letters and such.

Complications: The pixel font was implemented as a bitmap since the AddFontResourceEx call fails when trying to read the ttf version of the font (as in it causes the program to hang after the function is called, and I can't stop the program for debugging).

The 'reading Japanese Characters from a file' might prove to be a challenge at this point since I'll have to deal with reading UTF-8 and interpreting the multi-byte input into a character (I cannot use such characters as test strings in the cpp files since they are encoded in ANSI).

I have still a few other pages to implement, but I'll cover the battle screen related stuff next, since people want action related shots and I'm overdue a few months on a functional demo.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chinese Culture Camp: More of Everything

There's a lot more of everything this year in Chinese Cultural Camp, more students (nearly twice as much), more lions, the camp is longer (by one day), and... more cameras. (I don't have a SLR this time around, though.) Looks like those advertisements are getting somewhere (I think my video from last year helped partially with it).

I didn't have any moving tripods to create some pan effects so I had to improvise a bit and use a cart, and handle the shakes post-processing since the wheels on the carts are designed for moving foldable chairs around and they aren't the smoothest.

News article on this.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer at the Stockton Cinemas

During this month I have been to the theaters to watch a movie more often than any other. And apparently the lines are longer than ever. So long that Monsters University sold out and there were two separate lines near the entrance of the theater for those waiting for the next showing (people were lining up around an hour before the movie started). Must've been the summer movies and the specials.

Specials in the Stockton Area: Although you can get 20 dollars worth of movies and $10 for concessions at Costco for 25 bucks everything (except for large popcorn) is quite expensive so it's not really worth buying. Other than early bird and matinee specials there's a few other specials going on at this time:

  • Stockton City Center Stadium 16: Twilight Special - discounts the cost of tickets to $6.00 for any movie that starts between 4-6 pm on the weekdays.
  • Stockton Holiday 8 on West Lane: Tickets for any show on Tuesday and Sunday are $5 (more than half off). They also show G and PG movies at 10am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for $1 each, however there is only one showing a day and it's first come first serve.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The One Dollar Bookstore

The books are a dollar each, but good luck finding what you want.

The One Dollar Bookstore (also known as Piccolo's Books) at Long Beach: One dollar a book, excluding tax. This includes audio CDs and magazines. The only exceptions to these rules are the ones on the window display, and some large posters, which are $5 and $25 respectively. The store (at least the one in Long Beach) is huge, so you'll have a variety available to you.

Although books are broadly sorted (such as fiction, travel, self-improvement, etc. the organization in those categories are subpar, you may spend more time trying to browse (and/or sort) books than looking in them in some areas.

Note on books:

  • Practically all of them are used books, meaning that what you find is something that someone else didn't want.
  • Good place if you're looking for fiction books.
  • Since they are used books, expect to find lots of dated material.
  • There's an entire shelf of AAA travel books (and it has its own category) for those who don't have a AAA membership. (They are usually free of charge once you get one)
  • The computer books are great... for legacy software. Want to learn the basics of a program? You can start here. I recommend you get a up-to-date book when possible though. The books here typically cover software ranging from the 1990s to the early 2000s. Don't expect to find books relating to programming languages. Ignore the manuals (like Norton Systemworks).
  • Books regarding games are literally used; you may find puzzle books which have been written in and partially completed. Most of them in this section are discarded game manuals, in the days where detailed manuals existed in physical form.
  • If someone sees you sorting something (or as much as putting a book back), there's a chance someone may mistake you for working there.

Attempt at grouping all the Visual Quickstart guides together to make a decision on which ones to get.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

McDonalds: New Menu Items?

On a McDonalds somewhere on I-5 (the one on Panoche Road) there was a sign containing not one but five new items, consisting of the following:

  • Southwest Burger, 360 cal.
  • Grilled Onion Cheddar McDouble, 400 cal.
  • Southwest McDouble, 400 cal.
  • McChicken Deluxe, 440 cal.
  • Hot'n Spicy McChicken Deluxe, 460 cal.

The Deluxe versions simply add a tomato and a slice of cheese (this puts it on par with a Premium Grilled Club Sandwich, minus the bacon, for a fraction of the price)

I haven't seen any of these items around before (at least at the McDonalds I've been to normally), does anyone know if these items are available elsewhere?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Las Vegas Redux

Six years ago I first traveled to Las Vegas with relatives, it was a new place for me, a place to see lots of skyscrapers / hotels, and to explore everything it had to offer. Unfortunately the ability to see a lot of things were limited, due to being under 21 at that time. Fast forward to today. Not only am I over 21 (this means I can walk through casinos without a problem* and get to places which were previously inaccessible), but we're also using a Powerpass (that means being able to see as many attractions as possible in three days).

I had two goals to accomplish that week:

  • Collect as many different poker chips as possible (although I prefer $5 because some are rare chips, white/blue ones are sufficient)
  • See as many places as possible

General Notes regarding the Powerpass:

  • It is strongly recommended you buy the Powerpass at Costco online for $105 covering three days. Redeem at the Planet Hollywood Store in the Forum Shops in order to get your cards. Anything less than 3 days would not be advised since you will have to rush between attractions in order to see enough to cover the cost.
  • The 3 day period starts as soon as you use it in any attraction that it covers, best to use it at the start of the day.
  • You will very likely not be able to make it to every place within 3 days, so plan carefully.
  • Mob Museum is the one downtown, NOT the one at the Tropicana. (They mentioned that they no longer accepted it in Feb 2013, implying that they previously accepted it).

Recommendations for Powerpass: (based on what I've seen)

  • Planet Hollywood Store or Restaurant Credit. The $10 dollar credit at PH is reusable and stacks so if you're going with friends or family and they also have a powerpass you can use your cards together and make purchases that way (ex. 4 cards give you $40 store or food credit that day).
  • Hoover Dam Motor Coach Tour
  • Wax Museum
  • Bellagio of Fine Art (at the time this was posted, exhibit was Warhol Out West, yours may vary)
  • BeatleShow (might as well see it since you are paying lots for the pass)
  • Eiffel Tower Experience (the above image was shot from the top of Eiffel Tower)
  • Stratosphere Observation Deck (Note: This does not include rides though there is a slight discount for some food items there)
  • National Atomic Testing Museum

Notes regarding other things on the trip:

  • At this time, it is very hot outside. As in 100+ degree weather, find shade or indoor shelter as soon as possible. Venetian + Palazzo connects together, as well as Monte Carlo + Vadara + Bellagio and Paris + Bally's. TI and Mirage connects via a Tram.
  • If you book a location on the Strip (online), be prepared to pay an additional mandatory resort fee per night, the online pricing does not include this in calculating cheapest hotels. Use this page as a guide.
  • McDonalds is by far the cheapest thing you can have on the strip, when you consider that burgers (or almost any place not considered fast food, for that matter) are an average price of around $11. Keep in mind that $1 will give you a Spicy McChicken, the regular variant is not available.
  • The Flamingo Hotel might be cheap but it's the oldest on the Strip and it speaks for its price from the uneven carpeting (at least on the 10th floor) and in my room the bathroom knob was falling apart and the toilet seat was loose.
  • I play one round per casino for this trip in order to collect a poker chip. (Don't collect the ones that you find in the souvenir shops though, they look too polished, have no cash value, and are more expensive)
  • Based on observations from the various Roulette Tables while walking by, a black didn't appear for up to nine spins in a row on several tables, so anything can happen. And anybody using any sort of Martingale strategy would go bankrupt (or hit the table limit if they didn't).
  • There's a F-Zero AX Machine at Buffalo Bill's, but it wasn't working at the time I was there.

Heard they were renovating, but they weren't quite finished yet. Guess they were right.