Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Apricot Blending Crystal Space

I haven't followed Project Apricot in a while - I've been out of the Blender & Crystal Space 3D scene for a while now. It appears to have taken an interesting turn however.

It appears the final name is "Yo Frankie!" - finally available online or retail, including all the code & assets that went into the game. Both of them.

Errr... what?

Evidently the project forked - one fork was done entirely within Blender, the other built specifically for Crystal Space. There appear to be differing accounts as to why the for occured; the Blender Foundation claims that this was due to advances in Blender's own game engine, while at the same time they appear to say that there were too many technical difficulties to marry the Blender Game Engine and Crystal Space 3D. Ultimately Blender's game engine remains an entity on its own, and Crystal Space walks a separate path. It seems the Blender community wasn't happy with using an engine outside of their own doors and so they walked away from integrating with a more sophisticated game engine. Integration with other engines and projects... something that could make Blender thrive in a production environment... was abandoned to work on the more primitive Blender Game Engine.

The Crystal Core project seems to have re-adjusted its ultimate aims as well, similarly finding its initial objectives far too ambitious. That makes two flagship titles that haven't been able to reach their intended goals.

I'm wondering why Apricot and Crystal Core are both having such difficulties. My guess is that content generation can be done well, engine development can be done well, but the interoperability between the two is an equal if not greater effort. Compare the tools Eskil created for Love to the Blender + Crystal Space tools: building models and meshes in Blender can be fairly arduous and requires a lot of reference material while Loq Ariou can create meshes using freehand and UV texture mapping in Blender is a multi-step process while Eskil has created something that can do the UV mapping in a few short steps. Verse seems to be the glue that the Blender <-> Crystal Space interoperability was missing, creating a uniform way to remotely process assets and scenes.

The effort to have a Crystal Space 3D game engine within Blender would have been tough, but I believe it would have been worth it. It is definitely no easy task, but these kinds of tools are sorely needed. It is too bad Blender decided to push Crystal Space aside - I was looking forward to big things with their collaboration.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What I've Seen with Your Eyes

Eskil posted the video for his GDC presentations and they're abso-freakin-lutely amazing.

The gameplay of Love was interesting, but the video displaying the tools Eskil created are completely mind blowing. It's the stuff that actually gives you hope for the world again. The GDC tool video shows off several tools Eskil has released: Loq Ariou which allows you to create assets & models with the same ease as a pencil & scratch paper, Co On which provides scene mapping that's startlingly similar to how you might visualize things in your own mind, and Verse, a data transfer & protocol standard that allows such data to be shared instantaneously between applications.

Obviously Eskil had to create an intelligent set of tools to properly build Love within a decade, but I had no idea he had constructed such a cadre of tools that could be re-used by other developers. Not only does he speed content generation up and provide better interfaces - he goes one step further by breaking down human factor boundaries that plague every other asset generation tool to date. Just watch the video - especially the portion demonstrating shaders in Co On - and you'll see why I'm going completely nuts over these releases.

Eskil is giving back a huge amount to the community at large with these tools, and is likely opening the doors for many, many others to creatively express themselves in ways that were once prohibitively difficult. Love isn't just creating a fanbase... it's creating a legacy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Candyland Gets Paved

I've been a big fan of Java for quite a long time, using it for nearly all my enterprise software development. Looks like I'm going to have to find something else now.

Today Oracle announced it would purchase Sun
, the company that had previously played host to a myriad of great technologies such as the Solaris OS, the Java programming language, the NetBeans integrated development environment, the MySQL database, VirtualBox for desktop virtualization, the GlassFish application server (not to mention an emerging JMS server) and OpenOffice.org for open-source enterprise office software. With Oracle's purchase pretty much a done deal, you can now expect most, if not all, of these technologies to wither on the vine.

I rely on NetBeans, Java, Solaris, OpenOffice and VirtualBox so that I can do my job on a daily basis. With those removed, I'm pretty much screwed.

Think I'm being alarmist? Maybe. I did play Chicken Little when Novell bought SuSE in 2003, and that deal appears to be working out somewhat better than anyone expected - even amidst poorly considered kinships with Microsoft. SuSE is slowly recovering, and Novell seems to attempt to be a good steward. But Oracle? Lessee... what's their track record for aquired technologies? They've turned Tangosol Coherence from a must-have element in a distributed software stack into a minuscule trinket tucked away in their closet. InnoDB has not progressed well and has caused continue enterprise issues. And WebLogic? It used to be the fastest Web service platform out there, now it remains largely ignored.

Tell me... what strategic value is Oracle going to find in VirtualBox? Or OpenOffice.org? Do you really think Oracle would have allowed projects such as Hibernate to exist when they want to make Toplink ubiquitous? Oracle will continue to neglect these projects, just like they've ignored previous projects they've acquired, until they decompose.

Seriously, are you going to trust a company who's had the same impossible-to-navigate site for fifteen years? A company who attempts to license its products using terms that require a slide rule and burnt offerings to figure out? Just look at the difference of how each company announced the acquisition: Sun created a micro-site that explains the deal and attempts to sell a bright side. Oracle could hardly be bothered to post a statement, showing their indifference to the acquisition that will most likely just mean a reduction in competition, not an enhancement to their portfolio.

Right now it seems there are two possible outs: hope that Apache Harmony can deliver on its goal of releasing its own open Java platform, or abandon Java as a platform and move to something like Qt.

Maybe I'm prematurely freaking out. Maybe I'm wrong about Oracle's apathy destroying the projects acquired from Sun. I certainly hope so. Still, I would wager that the capitalist will continue to decimate good ideas, digesting Sun's properties into a discarded pile alongside acquisitions of olde.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

You're Nice People. I'll Give You Monies.

I have a bit of a... troublesome patch with my iPods. My first one suffered the cruel fate of a lawn mowing incident. The next one suffered a more aqueous fate. Now the latest one has been acting odd as of late and several hours, system restores, re-formatts and a pass of badblocks later I found it had a hard drive riddled with bad blocks. I'm guessing the read heads were using the platters as a scratching post.

I needed hardware support here. Mind you I've never once meandered into the local Apple store, nevermind the Genius Bar. Yet I made an appointment, shuffled my way through and talked to the resident genius.

I was prepped and ready for a requests for long-lost receipts, RMA codes and waiting months for a refurbishment. So I met my genius, she listened to the symptoms, typed a while on her laptop and... handed me a new iPod.

Seriously, just like that.

The serial number was dutifully registered by iTunes and was shown to still be under warranty. So I signed for receipt of a new device and walked out the door. Ten minutes, tops.

What the eff? Why isn't life always this easy?

I'm sync'ing now and probably have a few hours to go. Small price to pay for instant gratification. I've given Apple lots of business; it's refreshing to see that they treat their customers with the same kind of loyalty.