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  Long Journey 9.Dec.2012
In The Shadows After months of watching AI avoid obstacles and try to look like they know what they are doing. After weeks of drawing pixels and trying to squeeze every colour out of the Quake palette. After many late nights of watching AI run around in circles ... I finally have something worth releasing!

Here is a short demo of my latest MOD In the Shadows featuring three maps, two gameplay modes and one large story world for people to have fun exploring. There are many secret locations to find and not everything is available straight away.

So you are probably wondering, 'Why create something for a game that is 15 years old?' and the answer is 'It fires the imagination'. Quake has such a gritty (pixelated) vivid landscape of nightmarish monsters and fantasy locations that it is dripping in atmosphere.

In the Shadows is about a world where the environment has a purpose, a design, a back story and the player is free to explore. There are plenty of hidden locations off the main path to discover and strange artifacts to find with mysterious tales to tell.
In The Shadows

In The Shadows The original idea for In the Shadows was to create a stealth system, a way for the player to sneak around the world and not be discovered. This required one thing that was missing from the original game of Quake, the AI had to look smart and know how to find the player.

It took many test maps and countless lines of code to get the AI in a state where they were a challenge. Eventually the AI test maps became so much fun that I have included them in the MOD as playable maps and I hope you enjoy playing them as much as I did.

After several weeks of wrestling with high resolution lightmaps I finally finished my concept map The Florentine Library. The map featured one of my favourite texture sets I have ever created and was based on photos I took during my holiday in Italy.

I was planning to do more with this theme but I found another project instead to consume all my free time and I thought it would be a good idea to released the texture set for Christmas, so everyone can have fun creating floating palaces in the sky!
Palace Textures
In Monkey Heaven

  In the Shadows 2.Aug.2012
In the Shadows

In the Shadows is a modification for the old classic game Quake and will feature new and updated monsters, a large amount of art assets and a funky new combat system, stealth! Yes I know, probably an unusual combination, slow paced strategic combat layered on top of a fast paced classic run, gun and shoot fps! It certainly is a strange idea, but it is something I have wanted to experiment with for some time due to my crazy obsession with the Thief series and all things sneaky like.

So far I have designed the main story and various layers of environmental history, worked out what locations I want to create and made the first map, The Temple of Swords which I have created a temporary web page for with a couple of images.

The Temple of Swords is the hub map which links all the other locations together and is the place the player will visit the most. The map is designed with a couple of unique paths so that the player can pick and choose what direction they want to go and hopefully create a new experience each time they pass through.

The hub map also features an unique event called the Well of Bones which is optional and something I setup for a bit of fun. There are also plenty of secret areas to discover for the treasure hunting seeking players who like to explore every inch of a map.

Most of the new code is in place ready for the stealth system and I have embedded a video (above) showing the basic tutorial section of the first map. The stealth system may seem simple at first (the tutorial is designed to show the mechanics with very few distractions) but a group of monsters is a different kettle of fish.

All monsters will notice if something is wrong, like they see another monster suddenly die in front of them for no apparent reason. If a monster spots the player killing another monster, the cloak of invisibility will be broken and everything around the player will start to attack. This can be tricky because the stealth mode has no armour and monsters do large amounts of damage which can lead to a quick demise.

Eventually large groups of monsters become distraction puzzles with certain monsters needing to be turned around before a route is clear or a monster can be attacked without anything knowing. This situation gets more complex with patrolling monsters because they cannot be distracted and have to be dealt with while they are moving and suddenly a simple room has become a dangerous obstacle course.
Ninja Assassin

  3D Loco Logic 6.Apr.2012
3D Puzzle Logic At the core of any level designer (wannabe coder) is the ability to script and luckily over the years the tools have gotten better. Originally scripting was more like coding, but that changed with the introduction of amazing visual 2D scripting systems.

I have always wondered about the idea of 3D scripting with the logic functions being defined as 3D shapes. A couple of years ago I started experimenting with a small set of entities to see what stuff I could create and the initial tests were a lot of fun.

Eventually the test maps turned into a huge single player puzzle map called Edge of Forever which consequently took forever to finish. Afterwards I was going to write an article about the puzzles in the map and then I realized, no one would be interested, the project was a crazy idea to start with!

After two years of avoiding the idea I recently found the time and energy to finish writing the article on puzzle logic I promised. Funny enough it turned out exactly how I imagined it would ... barking crazy!
3D Puzzle Logic

  Painting Words 24.Mar.2012
The Florentine Library Once the library scene was complete I moved on to my next project and discovered the delights of external light maps, which really made a big impact on the visuals. So I decided to return to the library scene and give it a new set of crispy shadows instead.

What started as a simple light map update turned into replacing all of the textures with higher resolutions versions and upgrading all of the model objects. I also discovered that external light maps don't do glow effects and had to mix and match light map types.

When I look at my textures I see the history and they tell me a thousand words! The textures came from many cool places and I thought it might be interesting to share.

The white stone is from the banks of the river Danube taken over several days because of problems with the sunlight. The stones were from several sources and then glued together into a perfect grid cutting pattern.

The brown stone is from the back of the church in Pisa and luckily the sun was on the opposite side to me. When the church was being built they took stones from everywhere and it created an interesting patchwork of different types around the walls.
Stone Walls

Doors and Frames The regal blue wallpaper and door frame are from the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The wallpaper was covered in spot lights which caused all sorts of problem with tiling.

The door on the left was made from a frame belonging to a small church by the river in Pisa and the gold leaf inlay from a ceiling in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. A wood texture was blended over the top to make sure the door looked consistent.

The door on the right is from the back of the Baptistry next to the Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. The door is a good copy of the original image and I only removed the shadows from the top.

One of my favourite textures in the palace set is the blue floor tile from the Piccolomini Library inside of the Siena Cathedral. The library was a small room connected to the nave and the walls were covered in 10 large frescoes. In the center of the room was a collection of music tomes and they were designed for giant hands!

The floor was covered in a sea of diamonds with hand painted crescent moon symbol in the middle. The tiles were not the originals from the 15th century, but there was plenty of wear and tear detail and special half diamond versions connected to an outer border. Unfortunately I did not take enough pictures of the floor and I ended up with a very small tileable texture.
Floor tiles and steps
Too Many Words

  Bridging the Gap 18.Mar.2012
The Bridge Crane What started out as a couple of metal textures for a friend, eventually turned into a brand new photo sourced texture set and a cool looking architectural concept map.

Usually I don't bother much with industrial stuff for personal projects because they often mimics life in scale and composition and where is the fun in that! After spending hours wandering around taking pictures of rusty metal and water stained concrete I ended up with a pile of new textures itching to be used for something.

While looking for inspiration and reference I came across some pictures of a Russian Aluminium Processing Plant and they looked amazing. It is crazy the amount of detail in every nook and cranny and I did enjoy the 'can you spot the worker' in every picture.

The thing I love about Russian industrial architecture is that it feels so epic and large, like it is working on a Communist Scale. Where large objects have strong solid shapes and could withstand the building falling down on them and still keep going!
The Bridge Crane

The Bridge Crane I strongly believe that the secret to any good map is a well placed central object that can act as landmark or more importantly a good talking point. When people remember places they use landmarks and describe their visit by what they saw and what happened to them.

Recently I was watching a documentary about CERN and how they transported parts of the large hadron collider down a mine shaft and I thought that would be the perfect focal point, a bridge crane which I could apply Communist Scale too at the same time.

Now that my latest concept map The Bridge Crane is finished it is time to release my shiny new metal bricks for others to play with. The set consists of about 60+ unique textures with a couple of extra colours (blue / green / orange) to create a contrast.

I am also releasing the source file and it does make me wonder what will happen to it. Once something is released on to the internet, it can end up in the most unlikely places. I just hope these textures will help someone with their own projects and let me know if they were useful.
Industrial Textures
Cake Man

  Dusty Old Library Books 04.Feb.2012
Based on feedback from various forums I have decided to change the current library scene to have more detail and better lightning. The original plan was to have bright sunlight coming through the windows and a warm glow in the middle of the room. Unfortunately the sky turned out to be cloudy and the central torches were dim and underpowered for the space.

The library lighting needed to be changed so that there were better contrasting areas. The light entities around the windows were switched to blue to match the cloudy sky outside and the torch lights were increased in strength to create a hot glow effect. The harsh shadow edges (mostly from the torches) were fixed by doubling the attenuation value so that the light transitions were smooth and felt more natural.

The library scene was never designed to be highly detailed because the primary focus was the textures and how they fit together on the architecture. With various feedback suggesting more detail and a less cartoony feel I decided to add more dirt and clutter. I started with adding cobweb to the ceilings and eventually worked my way down towards the floor where I used large dirt decals around the walls and columns.

With the new lighting and a large amount of dust and cobwebs added to most areas I decided to produce updated screenshots to show the difference. The images below have three buttons for more images; small size (1024x768), large size (1365x1024) and finally a wide size (1820x1024) for people who want to see more detail in the scene.

Torchlight Express
Small Image   Large Image   Wide Image
I often find the best way to test textures is to splashed them across architectural shapes. Not all textures work as expected and some are discarded into a temp folder because I cannot find the right situation for them.

One such problem texture was a large square chunk of white marble surrounded on two sides with green stone. I tried every which way I could to use this texture, but nothing ever felt right. The stone border always demanded a certain shape and ultimately restricted how it could be used.
My latest test map was going to be a small church with a curved altar section and short nave. I started by creating a large four column support which I painted in various marble texture, but none of them felt right and the surface edges lacked definition.

After trying all marble textures I thought I would try the temp folder and luckily the square marble with stone borders worked perfectly. The column borders looked crisp and the strong colour contrast of white and green looked amazing ... and then I went off at a tangent and built a small library instead!
The Window Seat
Small Image   Large Image   Wide Image
Triggerable Shaders I was planning to do this article for sometime, but I always found other distractions to keep me busy. Recently over at Q3World there was discussion on this topic and it got me thinking, maybe it is time to write that article!

One of the primary effects used in the map Edge of Forever was to trigger shaders between different states and give the player valuable environmental feedback. This article will show step by step how to implement this feature in either a SP or DM style map.
Wannabe Librarian

  Gaming for the Gaps in Life 20.Jan.2012
How many times I have stood in a lift, at a bus stop or waiting for the lights to change wondering, am I wasting time? Do I need to fill up the gaps in my life with something! Too many moments consumed by silence that should be filled up with colourful pixels and flashing lights. The smart phone for supposedly smart people gently vibrates in my pocket, calling to me, there is something to do.

I need a quick fix, something that can start and finish in an instance. A micro game that is so simple to use that it can be put down, picked up and thrown away at a moment’s notice. The age of micro gratification is upon us and I am too busy cramming every second of the day to care. The uncomfortable silence standing in the elevator staring at my feet avoiding eye contact and conversations about the weather, I need a distraction, an escape plan.

I have plenty of gaps to fill, elevator down in the morning, walk to work, elevator up to work, waiting for coffee to brew, all moments that could be filled up chasing pixelated high scores. I need something simple, a basic mechanic that is not too stressful that I end up actually thinking about it. My journey begins with Bejeweled, a charming graphical happy game featuring brightly coloured gems.

1 million How come match 3 games are so popular? Are they simple to play or just simple game mechanics that do not involve too much lateral thinking?

Scanning the grid, left, right, up, down, like an eyeball Konami code searching for matching symbols. Lost in the moment quickly switching between symbol types looking for the perfect high score multiplier, a micro snack for my gap hunger.

I want a challenge, I want to see how long I can play the same game so I pick ‘Endless’ to see what monster high score I could generate. I obviously need to measure my time spent somehow and numbers are always a good starting point.

My plan was perfect, level after level, day after day, the score was getting bigger and eventually I had a new routine. After a month of gap management I had got a score of 1 million and for some reason, I felt proud of my achievement.
2 million

3 million I started to understand the game mechanics, spot ways of getting 4 and 5 combo crystals easily, working from the top to the bottom of the grid to minimize movements and saving 5 combo gems for emergencies.

I even discovered that the 5 combo gems themselves don’t match which was a bit sad; I was expecting the basic rules to apply to everything on the board but it did not. I was on a roll, I felt I was using skill to somehow defy the odds and then it dawned on me, this is an endless game, you cannot lose!
I started playing the levels to lose; I was recklessly matching gems and trying everything to end the game. It did not matter what I did, there was always one more match on the board and if I was too slow to spot it, the game told me. I even played the game while walking the streets and crossing the road to be as distracted as possible. It was as if the game was always making sure I could continue and my multimillion achievements became worthless.

Then I realized, someone must have programmed the game to keep me from losing, which is a cool feat by itself. I was playing a game where you don’t need to think anymore, no chance of failure; I just keep mashing buttons. What started out as me filling the mindless gaps in my life with something, ended up with another mindless activity, how ironic! Maybe I need the gaps in my life to do nothing, maybe they are gaps for a reason.

Now my elevator rides are daydreaming, hazy thoughts lost in time to the chime of the passing floors and mechanical clunking noises. My walks to work are a flash flood of sights and smells triggering past memories and making me smile to myself. It seems the gaps in my life were never empty, I just forgot to daydream.
The Devil Monkey

  Mark II Turbo 17.Jan.2012
A very strange start to the New Year with my trusty old laptop deciding to die on me after 5 years. It nearly brought tears to my eyes when I realized I might have lost all my data, but luckily not the case. After much pacing of the carpet and gnashing of teeth I eventually I found someone who was willing to fix my laptop but they wanted 1000 dollars! Unfortunately the warranty had expired a long time ago and I certainly was not going to waste my money if no guarantee it would last a while longer, so it was time for something new and shiny.

It has been a long time since I have had a new Operating System (good old WinXP) and I found out the hard way that most of my old software needed to be fixed, replaced and upgraded. After much pain and credit card suffering I finally have a new laptop, new Adobe Suite (CS5.5) and more hard disk space to fill up with stuff!

Palace of the Guardian I was going to post about this earlier but I had technology problems. Over the past couple of months I have been going through my Italian holiday pictures picking out the stuff I thought would make good textures.

Unfortunately pictures of flat textures are not really interesting to look at, so I decided to use some of my holiday snaps as reference and quickly created something worthy of a new lick of paint. I really love the vibrant colours in the new textures and they certainly don't look like anything I have done before.

An architectural doodle exploring a wooden ribbed ceiling flowing down towards angled wall supports. The initial idea came from a door/wall design and grew upwards to the central beam.

The textures are a mixture of old and new but the colour palette is too brown (stone wall, wood) and needs more contrast. Also experimented with light brightness and fall off to create hot spots around the flames. Added a second ambient light to reduce the hot light circle on the floor.
Palace of the Guardian

IBM Laptop Mark II Ah yes, the Mark II Turbo laptop, a worthy replacement of old faithful. My old IBM T61 travelled many miles, saw many places and survived longer than I had ever hoped for, so it was not all bad news when I replaced it.

The new laptop looks and feels like my old laptop but under the bonnet (hood) it is a very different beast. With a faster processor, double the amount of memory and a solid state drive it really does surprise me how quiet it is. Fingers crossed I get another 5 years of life from my shiny new laptop.
The Subversive Monkey

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