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Current Projects: Americana Engine (Game Engine Development)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hyatt Lake Tahoe Gingerbread House

It's self explanatory, complete with a moving train, and I wonder how much effort is placed into making these life size houses. I would guess this is a popular thing to have a picture of, as there's a reminder sign to share on Instagram / Facebook.

Anyways, this seems to be here during the wintertime, changes every year or so and... there's free hot chocolate nearby.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Country Club Plaza

Country Club Plaza - probably one of those malls in Sacramento that looks almost abandoned, seeing a lot of empty space (the directory only lists 21 active stores, though it seems like a lot less). If it closes, this would be the third mall in the area that I've been in to do so.

A review on BigMallRat had good reviews on this place so maybe I'm a bit late...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Americana Dawn: Kickstarter

Brief Summary:

Americana Dawn is a role playing game that takes place in Colonial America inspired from the Suikoden series of games. It emphasizes more on tactics (instead of level grinding), exploration, and a variety of large scale battles.

Almost after two years of developing a custom game engine for Americana Dawn, the Kickstarter is ready to go.

Although the Kickstarter has ended unsuccessfully, it has been Greenlit on Steam so there's a good chance it will be made available there in the near future.


  • The battle scenes are part of the battle simulator, which generates random encounters as well as showcasing new battle features. It is undergoing testing and will be released at some point in the future when the demo is out. As this is a dev created map, expect a lot of references in it.
  • The World map is explorable, though where you can go is quite limited at the moment. This region expands as we go along.
  • There will be a later post covering the various features the game engine can do in battles as there were a few things that I wanted to demonstrate, but might not be utilized to their fullest potential in the beta / demo versions.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Negative Exchange Rate

On the DRKBTC orderbook on Bitfinex. For the first time I have seen a bid price which is below zero. I guess when it goes that low people are willing to give coins to you for selling.

Speaking of that the value of DRK has nearly doubled recently. Dunno whether it will keep rising (due to new privacy features on the coin) or drop sharply (due to people selling when they bought at sub 1.70s last week), so I should probably get a few at this point but have a larger buy order near the bottom just in case.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Microbattle System, Pt 2

If Foster barely has enough HP to survive one, I wonder how he can take on two of them. (The Ruffian needs to be nerfed slightly.)

The previous post on this series can be found here.

There were many different design considerations on how the battle system should work, and eventually the second iteration of the battle system was designed, this time in a video format as well, since videos are worth a lot more than words.

The first video is to test 1v1 combat and to see if everything works. The beta next week or so will have more.

A few major changes that are in this system that wasn't present in the first:

  • Most battles have their own separate battle screen, but some (like this one) do not for added effect, particularly if those battles involve interactions with the environment. Battles in this manner may only allow equipment to be brought in, focusing more on tactics and gear setup than potion spamming.
  • Your two (or three) weapons that you bring in also determine what skills you can use in that battle, so choose carefully.
  • Attacks that interrupt no longer cancel their attack and push them back at the same time. Sure it might stun them for a bit and take longer for them to execute that one attack, but it's more of a 'what do I need to do to reduce the effectiveness of that attack' rather than a single move to cancel them all.
  • Willpower is actually a one hit point reserve after they're out of HP (down) where they can get up after a while with a bit of health. If they're all down, then pardon will work. This was needed because attacks take off considerable portions of the life bar and it's hard to get it under 20% or something without accidentally KOing them.
  • All characters regen to full after each battle so something else needs to be done to decide how various items otherwise used for healing will be used, to avoid having only one/two types of consumables in the game.

Note on Unlisted: There's a lot of internal debate about whether to keep videos unlisted or not. They have been made unlisted due to a request from KY, however I will keep them here to show proof that the game is progressing quickly towards a playable demo. (As of November 5, a battle simulator has been released to beta testers.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cunningham: Fall 2014

What appears in its place when this is cleaned up? A large outdoor area.

Around four years have passed since I first saw the construction of the new SCMA building. Now I see the original Cunningham starting to be torn down. With SCMA having its own designation for rooms, I'm not sure what remains of Cunningham after this. Only significant things I remember about this place was the Clever Planetarium (which will be rebuilt, I think), and the Computer Lab (before it was moved to Danner).

Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: Helixteus

How the endgame looks like, where any basic resource you had at the start is largely irrelevant.

Helixteus is a strategy / idle space game where pretty much everything is procedurally generated (an area which I support). Except that the strategy is more like ensuring you have more powerful ships to conquer (more in reality be able to explore) planets, solar systems, galaxies, etc., and idle doesn't occur until a ways in, when research allows you to get stuff passively as long as resource generators aren't full (though the game also runs when you're not playing).

The game's over there. Review's over here based on beta v1.30, but it's still in development, so I'll give it a month to see if new things are introduced and update from there.

A sequel, Helixteus 2, was released a year later, and its appropriate walkthrough is available on this page.

GUI Interface, help, etc.

A larger canvas size might be needed since all the gui elements makes the game a bit tiny, even though you can zoom out. Some elements are a bit misleading, particularly on DirectMax (which you had to max a certain amount of that building manually before you can DM them). I don't review graphics unless there's clear flaws in them, which there aren't. And then there's the collect all (next to the blue I), where it's not even clear what it is until you click it after you researched that.

And there's some clunky mechanics regarding planet selection, naming (I see lots of Planet 0's, Planet 1's, etc. on Global Planets as more are captured, where it takes a lot of clicks to find out where each one's at in the universe. Or maybe it isn't that important) and retreating in a battle (it involves having to move a fleet to another planet first before sending that + more units to attack the planet again). They'll probably be fixed soon.

Some settings, such as time between saves, should not be set to low values, such as .5 second; should it take longer than that to save the game (and late game it will) the game will lock up and you'll probably lose the savefile.

Starting Out

  • You build an ore mine from the tutorial, convert to cash, build more, etc. Build only a few power plants, enough to get upgrades and send ships out.
  • When reaching 10 or so ore mines, a shipyard can be built, several T1 ships (and maybe to T2), and clearing the entire system. This should allow you to expand ore/power plants on nearby planets, with at least one level in path 3.
  • Remainder of the Galaxy can be accessed using T2 and T3 ships. Quantity over quality since it allows you to lay down more shots. Continue expanding, and build a handful of Institutes and upgrade main power/ore base production/storage, and rest storage only.
  • On Institutes, Overclock, upgrade, speedup, and repeat, for fast SP. Repeat for main base power and ore (L6 for now). T3 ships. Taking planets is now the majority of income for now. Idle on the planet with power plants and wait for energy balls (you do need to upgrade them a bit before they become useful).
  • Start research on collect all.

Midgame (Galaxies, Superclusters)

  • You should be able to build a probe at this point, and find at least an O star, where Solar Plants can then be built. The energy costs might be a bit high to send powerful ships through superclusters, so take a weak planet and a fleet just good enough to beat them, build a starbase there and rebuild a fleet. Stock up on XTRM specs - you'll need them.
  • The XP from the former should be enough to access some tile operations, like upgrade all and speedup all. The Upgrade All / Speedup all
  • More SP facilities and proceed through the upgrade tree. If you have upgrade all and speedup all, use them while overclocked, they give more SP than it uses. Use that to finish the science tree.

Endgame (Achivements)

Resource generation now tends to fall in these categories now using these methods (assumes you maxed out your science tree):

  • UPXP: You should not worry about this value. DMaxing Ore Storage and Solar Panels should be enough to raise it to get achievements. (Note that while DMXed panels are cheaper than their Lv25 components they are also reducing your XP gain as well so you'll need to max them manually to get the full benefit. Thankfully the time to build is much shorter each time you do that on the same planet (it might take a few minutes for the level counter to catch up). You won't be able to max solar panels until your cash flow is in the E range (the price range is actually so large I had to put the details in respective article since no one else had them).
  • Energy: Get maxed out Solar Panels near an O star and overclock to 25x. Idle here if you want to get passive energy but make sure you collect as there's no idle generation when they're full. There's up to 1000 luminosity per blue sun (more if you established them before the recent patches), so 25 x15T = 375T per hour if distance is 0.5)
  • Cash: Late game crystals sells millions of times higher (or more) than the ore itself, especially when your ratio is at high values (since its sell price also increases exponentially; at 1:259, quillite sells at ~510E cash). You'll need a planet of fusion plants since making them takes a while, even with full upgrades. (100B ore makes high level crystals consistently at a rate of 50%). The dev probably expects you to take this path anyways, as they are used for other endgame content like crafting.
  • Ore Storage: 1 DMaxed ore mine to reduce the build time, and then fill the rest with Ore Storage. Use a UT Speedup instead of finishing all buildings on planet since its fewer SP spent. You'll need the ore to bump up the Higher ore/gem value. Convert cash to ore. Buy upgrade. Rinse, repeat (you'll run in into the 'can't convert all to ore' box every time). Yes, there's a wall, but that exists at around 1:300 or so, where you need so many storage tanks to upgrade by 1, you'll probably crash the game eventually. Future updates might allow more.
  • Research Points: v1.30 makes them much more useful. If cash / energy is not an issue, which it shouldn't be, fill with Institutes, overclock 25x, and then finish construction. They only give you a Lv20, so top it off to Lv25. Then collect. On a 14x14 planet, it costs 50M to complete the above, and you will collect 768 billion SP. (Note: the SP cost for filling is 500 * (Institutes Placed ^ 2.38), and more to complete them.)
  • Exploration: Never place probes on full energy saver. You'll be waiting at least a month without speedups and most likely you'll scrap them for a faster speed one. Also for battles never use UT XTRM Spec (even though its 7x stats) since its SP cost is exorbitant for large T5 fleets, which you're probably using them on.

    An interesting note is that even though the probe's speed is set to one over 9000, any other ship can exceed that at this point in the game.
  • Taking Late Game Planets: When the difficulty rises above 500M, you'll start having mobs with at least 10T HP, 1T atk, 1T def, etc. Builds focus on only two things: Being able to stunlock and having enough HP to survive the battle while tanking. Although rocks might be worthless with atk and def (smaller ones are worth no more than one or two spec points each) you'll need as many as you can to boost HP. Fleets with at least 300T HP, 350T attack, 15B defense, and 50k ships are required to have a chance of surviving here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Shop GUI v2

GTG's shop in AD: Foundations Tech Demo, design board. Jelly returns.

Almost a year after the menu pages were added, they were revamped in order to take advantage of the higher resolution of the game. The shop GUI was modified to look a bit more 'colorful', and to actually show an item description instead of requiring a keypress to switch between your inventory / compare screens. The former is used for selling items, and there's now a separate tab for that. Only things now on the right is item information, what characters can use that item, and how many is in their inventory, as well as their carrying capacity.

There has been debate between the team regarding item information; the one used in the base game only shows charge / recoil with three speed values, apparently damage is irrelevant on their end because I don't know. Might be informative enough for action RPGs when you're sending so many attacks their way you don't need to know exact values, but in a turn-based RPG, each of your moves count, and a couple of mistakes almost certainly ends with a party wipe, sending you back to your last save (although I've heard the game would be a bit more forgiving than this).

For the latter, the comparison feature was removed. In other RPG games a simple up/down was used since the only main feature of weapons and armor is increased attack / defense later in the game. But there's really no way to determine if certain effects are better or not, since average damage does not increase significantly over the course of the game. It's the player's job to determine those tradeoffs.

Inventory space is not really an issue anymore, since it is set to an arbitrarily high value (such as 1000), and item usage in battle is limited to what your party can hold, so you can only bring a handful of items with you into battle.

Item Description: Four lines should be enough to display stuff about the item. Maybe not enough for witty humor, however. (The description itself may change since it breaks the fourth wall and makes a reference to the fact that Jelly could be bought in only two colors when it was listed in the Etsy store seven months ago, despite screenshots showing them in other colors. I attempted to buy them via other means, without success.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Chinese Culture Camp, Round 4

The fourth year of Chinese Culture Camp. Same as usual, with the addition of female lion dancers and a new buiding available for classes. Unlike other years, I was only present in the morning, so I didn't make the end of camp slideshow.

I feel like the camp needs to be longer (both time-wise and length-wise), as 40 mins seems a bit short, and no Lion Dance classes past Beginner level are taught... there are repeat students. And they should also raise the grade level up a bit (right now it's K-6), because there's more counselors (Grade 7+) than campers, they could offer more advanced courses, and those lions are... quite heavy.

No article about this year's camp on The Record, though it was mentioned a month prior.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

San Diego Model Railroad Museum

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum is imo one of the more interesting exhibits in Balboa Park for its cost ($3 for students, and up to $8 for others). The exhibits are actually pretty large and detailed, considering it takes around a minute to walk from one end of the train exhibit to another. And there's six of them...

There's a second floor that is accessible on busier days, when more volunteers are around. It wasn't open when I was there, though.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

End of Asparagus Festival

Turning away from it, for the last time.

According to a news article, the Asparagus Festival will no longer be occurring.

Except on two occassions (this year included), I have personally attended the asparagus festival each year since 2004. Admission prices were raised 60% during those years, and I have seen most of the booths / things had to offer there (including running the Spear-It run and volunteering in the deep fried asparagus booth). Only thing I didn't do, however, was the zipline, which was introduced this year.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

End of Cunningham

Over the past six months at Delta College, Cunningham center closed down... and went through a process of being fenced, scaffolds around it, covered up, and eventually torn down. They're expected to finish by this Fall. A new building takes its place instead.

I didn't get a last look at the place before it did, but I did manage to see the planetarium during the few times it was actually open, and went to the computer labs during HS (which those computers were large, had CRT monitors, and computers had floppy drives). And took classes in this area. And where I notably met KY at.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Americana Dawn: Microbattles

A Staresque Ring on Foster could've brought him back up, but they're quite expensive early on.

A Microbattle in AD is the game's battle system and the main way to resolve conflicts. From a distance and from screenshots, just like ordinary battles you see in other JRPGs: Turn based combat, characters using skills and items on the field, etc.

Beyond that, the similarities end here. Other than a few functions which handle battle related units (such as stats, learned skills, and equipment), what exactly occurs in the battle is based on map implementation. Want to have a simple skirmish vs a few soldiers? That works. But for those who demand more creativity (like me) I focus on a few other mechanics it can have:

  • Units have both HP / willpower. Your characters (including enemies) will regenerate their HP once they're down or in cover, but further attacks on them when incapacitated will drain their willpower, which doesn't come back on its own and increases the amount of damage they take in combat.
  • Each character has carrying capacity, which limits the amount of items they can carry at one time.
  • Pardoning. Because killing enemies isn't the only way to resolve a conflict. Some events in the game may change based on your decisions.
  • Passive environmental effects, meaning some weapons can be less effective in an area.
  • Interactable objects. Sometimes the method to defeat them isn't as direct as it seems.

Note on Commands: Attack / Defend are not simple one-off commands, since characters usually have more than one attack type available. Example: If Foster has a musket, he can either fire (at reduced accuracy) or engage in close quarters combat and use it as a melee weapon.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gemcraft: Chasing Shadows Strategy - Turtling

The two gems do a max of 1k damage (0 on these swarmlings), but it's the orb that cleans them up.

Note: The damage boost on the orb was removed a day after it was released but I'll still leave this post up here for historical purposes.

The new Gemcraft Chasing Shadows is finally out, and after a few hours found a viable strategy to power level early game. They added quite a bit of new features, including dropping gems on your orb to increase its damage done to monsters (before being banished). Which is specifically what this post will cover here - turtling.

It works wonders on levels with lots of swarmlings (B3 being a notable example), where they have low hp and you can anger them a lot to jack up their XP. And even more if you spend shadow cores to up traits Haste and Beacon Storm (the latter giving you free XP if the map doesn't spawn any).

  • You're gonna need a bit of mana reserves for this one (be at least lv10 first). Level up Fusion and Mana Storm as high as it can go, and True Colors when you unlock it. Getting bunches of Achievements will help with this one.
  • Create a grade one gem, drop it on your orb to increase its damage, until it's minimum damage is at least the hit points on the first few waves. Use red / green if possible, since they grant more minimum damage on the orb. If you have spare mana, you can repeatedly balance betwen angering the next few waves and upping the orb damage.
  • Start the first wave - the first pack of monsters should hit the orb and die instantly granting you mana.
  • Use that to keep upgrading your orb damage to keep up with the increased hp in later waves. If your mana's near full let it level up first.
  • If there are giants on the field, you have more than enough mana to create high grade gems and have them specifically target Giants (Bolt is useful here). Don't use anger on them - they don't give out enough XP anyways.
  • One you see the last wave and no giants are there, you can use high strength gems to upgrade both the orb and incoming monsters. (Higher grade gems dropped to anger them uses up more mana, but it has a larger XP multiplier and more monsters compared to a wave angered to the same HP with low grade gems.)
  • Plan appropriately if there are some special conditions you need to meet to complete the stage (like wizard tower levels)

Angering them enough times gives enormous amounts of XP and causes their armor to go through the roof (several thousand when angered enough), but as long as your minimum damage is a bit under their HP, it's no bother since the orb usually one shots them. If they don't they get another pass but it's not like they'll survive the second time through. The number of beacons on the field don't matter, as it doesn't stop this strategy from working.

Considering that it nets tons of XP (as in tens or hundreds of thousands) in the first few map tiles, and that it detracts heavily from its intended purpose of the game (it allows you to complete maps without placing any gems in towers at all), it might be nerfed in the future.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April's Fool

One of the many whiteboard graphics on this whiteboard that appear in the Goleman Library. The other whiteboard, however, has a simple notice (that changes from time to time) about the fact that whiteboard markers are no longer issued to tutors. They're just for these boards, I guess. (And updating the tutor availability board)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Goleman Library + Quad

Just another day this semester where I do tutoring sessions three days a week in the morning related to Computer Science. It's 8am and it's about to open... except it's cloudy, I see this view, and took this image after giving it a second thought.

(The original Goleman Library's entrace was in this direction, the new one seen here is on the left side)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Americana Dawn: Macrobattles and a Dynamic World

Foster's team defends against a infantry rush.*

The distinguishing feature of Americana Dawn is the focus on large scale battles, also known as macrobattles. These battles are similar to most turn-based tactical games, such as Advance Wars and army battles in Suikoden 2. Although most large battles are based on historical battles, there are some minor skirmishes using this system that can take place during the game during missions and side quests.

Players control a variety of units, historical figures and officers known as 'Elites', who are both customizable and have a diverse set of skills to handle various situations on the battlefield. Units fall under eight general unit classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses:

  • Brave: Melee warriors that can deal additional damage when flanking an enemy
  • Infantry: Ranged gunman that can control cannons and utilize buildings and towers to their fullest
  • Cannoneer: Artillery with large area of effect attacks and is best used for taking out fortifications
  • Calvary: High movement/evade and excels in hit and run tactics
  • Ranger: High sight range, and can detect units in cover or in buildings
  • Rifleman: Sniper units that can pick off calvary and lone units with ease.
  • Sapper: Can construct defensive structures on the field
  • Commander: Can boost nearby soldiers' morale.

The key element in these large wars is using the environment or the enemy's weaknesses to your advantage, whether it is ambushing cannoneers and using infantry to steal their artillery, or using cover to recon and find a weak spot in the enemy's defenses. There is no 'right' way to win a battle, but you have a limited number of troops at your disposal.

All skirmishes take place on the world map, and decisions from battles are persistent; Your choices on the field determines how the story unfolds. Any elite character killed in battle is permanent and may affect dialogue and future missions. Similarly, collateral damage can directly harm towns and establishments for the duration of the game, so if a shop is destroyed when retaking a city, you deny yourself the goods and any sidequests it has to offer.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


The animation loop generated in Americana Dawn while trying to script the Braddock Scene. It's done with a custom scripting system in the game, particularly since I didn't want to put the effort into using another preset scripting language (such as lua) and getting it to work properly with what's already in the game, including how it's stored when the script is saved into a map file.

I've decided to change the way things are displayed on the blog; sometimes a picture isn't enough to describe things, so a short video clip (without sound) might be used instead if the browser supports HTML5. If not, it will load a still image instead.

Cutscene Update: The finished cutscene was rebuilt a month later with a slightly different tileset and is viewable here.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lunar New Year 2014

The sign celebrating Chinese New Year at Red Hawk. I'm a day late on saying this, since it occurred yesterday, but I couldn't make it to the Thunder Valley one, which occurred on a Friday. The lion dance was quite short but there were three performances that day (with some slight differences between each of them).

Also, there was no greeter at the entrance, contrary to what it said online.

Note: The lion dance group is different from the one that performs in Thunder Valley / Cache Creek this year.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Glean 2 Crafting Guide

It's still complicated, though not as much as the first game.

Brief crafting guide summary for Glean 2, most crafting data pulled from Glean 2 Guide Wiki, which is actually more like a guide than a walkthrough. But a few notes on on the above diagram:

  • The icons on the top-right indicates what resources are used to craft a certain item and component types. You'll need to have one of the respective blueprint and one of each of the material you are crafting before you can make more.
  • Exact number of resources for crafting a certain item are not displayed here, since it might change between patches, and you'll probably be mining enough that it doesn't matter.
  • Exact components needed for upgrading are not displayed since it requires another image to display all 112 upgrades in the game but upgrades for a certain part use components from only four categories, if it makes it easier.
  • Modular and Mechanism components on the bottom has a number indicating minimum depth needed to find the resources needed to craft it, and require two blueprints to research it, which vary between items. Assuming you already researched the four individual components used to craft it, that is.
  • Depth which gas is found is rounded to the nearest 50 depth (like 0-50, 50-100, 100-150), but are displayed as multiples of 40 for the purposes of making the table compact.
  • There's a chance that Bacteria can spawn above 140M in Aquatic areas, and lava was seen as high as 130m.
  • Uranium is mined from an empty lava pocket.

The tips below are general strategies for maxing upgrades in under 50 planets (the time limitation of the preview):

  • Mine everything that you can get to.
  • Fuel Reserves, Repair, and Radar Pulse are the only useful things to craft. Don't get Oxygen Refills since you'll need the Water for upgrades, and only Water appears from Chests, and they only appear once at a certain depth. Everything else is late game.
  • Find the chests before you leave a planet, since they contain 2 (or more) blueprints each.
  • Focus on Plating / Propeller / Cooling first, as they determine what you can mine, then Item Caps, Resource Quality, and maybe Drill Vibrations, as they don't require modulators / mechanisms. Optics is unnecessary as you can craft Radar Pulse fairly early, which does exactly what a high level Optics upgrade gives you.
  • You will have to get lava pockets and Uranium even though it's below the safe zone based on the best equipment you can get at the time. I suggest you get some repair nanites, do just enough to get the lava and uranium, and make a run for it.
  • In lower depths in Aquatic areas, look for oxygen bubbles coming out of the ground and not from sea grass? Those are locations of Coral Shards.
  • You can grab an unlimited amount of Unstable Isotopes and Oxygen by lingering next to a Aquatic chest at low depths.