Games

Photoshop tips


Apropos of nothing, I thought I’d mention that the two most recently posted pictures here were resized in Photoshop CS, using the new(-ish) Bicubic Sharper resampling method, available in the Image Size dialogue box. I hadn’t seen any mention of it until about two weeks ago, and had been using Mac OS X’s command-line tool sips for quick resizing.

Bicubic Sharper is much better than the standard Photoshop resizing, sips, or iPhoto. It’s particularly good for rendered images with fine detail. I’ve been working on a Roborally tile set for Dundjinni, creating my basic floor texture with Alien Skin Eye Candy 5: Textures. Dundjinni expects 200x200 tiles, but Eye Candy renders best at larger sizes. Resizing down from 800x800 using the straight Bicubic method produced an unusable image. Bicubic Sharper? Dramatically better.

I found the tip in a discussion of photo-processing workflow, which makes sense. For a long time, photographers have been making Unsharp Mask the final step in their workflows, because if they sharpened at full size, the slight softness introduced by resizing for print or web use would force them to use Unsharp Mask again, which tends to look pretty nasty. Integrating it into the resizing algorithm takes advantage of the data you’re discarding, reducing the chance of introducing distracting artifacts.

Morons of Azeroth, number 37


“Hey, I’m a shadow priest! I don’t want to get stuck healing all the time.”

“Dude, you’re the only healer in the group, and we’ve already died three times.”

They had me at ‘Ohayou’


Okay, the gameplay looks pretty standard. The graphics are colorful and well-rendered, though, and one of the screenshots suggests that you’re not limited to (literally) pedestrian locations, but that’s not what won me over about this video game based on the R.O.D The TV anime series.

ElePaperAction

It was the title, ElePaperAction.

Still waiting for Java


Gamer friend Scott just discovered that the reason he was having so much trouble with PCGen under Linux was that the JVM was defaulting to a rather small heap size, effectively thrashing the app into oblivion when he tried to print.

Now, while it’s true that PCGen is as piggy as a perl script when it comes to building complex data structures in memory, it’s still fundamentally a straightforward application, and yet it exceeds the default maximum heap settings. He had plenty of free RAM, gigs of free VM, and here was Sun’s Java, refusing to use any of it unless he relaunched the application with a command-line override. Doing so not only fixed printing, it made the entire application run substantially faster. Feh.

I’d noticed a slowdown with recent versions of PCGen on my Mac as well, but Apple was good enough to compile their JVM with defaults sufficient to at least make it run completely. Sure enough, though, increasing the default heap settings makes it run faster, by eliminating a whole bunch of garbage collection.

In other words, with Java, Sun has managed to replicate the Classic MacOS annoyance of adjusting memory allocation on a per-application basis, and made it cross-platform!

PCGen is still the only major Java app I have any use for on a regular basis, although there’s another one that has recently entered my arsenal of special-purpose tools, Multivalent. I have no use for 99% of its functionality, but it includes robust tools for splitting, merging, imposing, validating, compressing, and uncompressing PDF files, as well as stripping the copy/print/etc limitations from any PDF you can open and read.

There’s another Java application out there that might join the list sometime soon, Dundjinni, but first the manufacturers have to finish porting it from Windows to the Mac…

Traveller PDF mapping


Sunday was a pretty slow day, so I wrote a Perl script that generated PDF hex-maps for use in the Traveller RPG (we’re starting a D20 Traveller campaign soon). I also integrated star-system data from the standard SEC format that’s been passed around on the Internet for many years, and I’m adding an assortment of features as I find time.

Currently it prints at the sector, quadrant, and subsector level, in color and b&w, on paper sizes ranging from 4x6 to 11x17. All the heavy lifting is done with the PDF::API2::Lite module from CPAN, which has a straightforward interface.

Update: I seem to have pretty good page-rank with Google, so just in case there’s anyone else out there who’s trying to set a clipping region with PDF::API2::Lite, the magic words are:

#create some kind of path, like so
$pdf->rectxy($x1,$y1,$x2,$y2);
#clip to it
$pdf->{hybrid}->clip;
#start a new path
$pdf->{hybrid}->endpath;

Note that this doesn’t seem to work with the alpha 0.40 versions of the PDF::API2 distribution. I’m using 0.3r77.

ConQuest note


A quick pointer for the people attending ConQuest who asked about our initiative cards. The PDF file is here. Be sure to shut off the page-resizing options (called shrink oversized pages and enlarge small pages, last time I checked) before printing.

Poker women


Darn it, kids today just have it too easy. Do you know how hard we had to work in college to get women to play poker? Okay, we were actually trying to get them to play strip poker, but still.

Some of the reactions suggest that it may be a short-lived fad, but judging from the spring-break crowds in Vegas this year, it’s a big one.

"It is crazy on campus," said Rachel Dorfman, a University of Georgia sophomore who often plays poker for hours with her Sigma Delta Tau sisters. "It is absolutely the thing to do right now."

I can’t complain, though. I feel sorry for the Vegas old-timers who had to suffer through the days when there might be only one woman in the entire room. The only downside to this trend is that women tend to be very good at reading men, giving them a distinct advantage at the table. I don’t even like to think about the advantage that pretty women have…

Of course, no story that mixed college and gambling would be complete without the twin specters of targeting students and addiction. I love this quote:

The 18- to 24-year-old age group has some of the highest rates of gambling addictions, said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Good luck finding actual statistics on the NCPG web site, though, and you’ll find even less about the differences (both psychological and financial) between different types of gambling. Not surprising, since they’re hardly the bias-free concerned-citizen watchdog group that the story presents them as. A quick Google reveals that NCPG recently got nailed for antitrust violations for trying to monopolize the lucrative problem-gambling treatment market.

LucasArts buries Sam & Max again


For the first time in quite a few years, I was looking forward to a LucasArts game release. Naturally, they just cancelled it. No doubt they’re focusing their efforts on tie-in games for the next crappy Star Wars flick.

Oh, well; they didn’t need my money anyway, right?