Sunday, July 26, 2009

Blender and Irrlicht

After finishing going through The Red Book and trying to start writing a small interactive scene, I immediately knew that raw OpenGL would take way too long to use in a game. I'd need an engine instead. For one thing, trying to create detailed models and scenes in a graphics API like OpenGL is probably impossible, not to mention really stupid, what with all the powerful tools out there. It'd probably take a month to perfect a single model that way. And no, I never seriously considered doing so.

So I knew I either had to use an engine made by someone else, or make my own. From looking at some game engines that other people have spent some time on, and discussions on the Internet among game designers, I know that as a graphics and game design noob, creating my own engine would be purely educational. Meaning it would inevitably suck. Now I'm glad I learned the basics of OpenGL, since it taught me a bunch of important 3d graphics concepts. But it's one thing to learn basic concepts and another to spend months of my life trying to piece together a decent 3d game engine. Since my goal is to be creative rather than travel these much trodden roads, it wasn't a hard decision to use someone else's engine.

I'd heard of the 3d engine Irrlicht before, and it seems very simple to use. So I'm gonna do that. Another one is OGRE, which sounds more powerful but with a higher learning curve.

More important is the ability to import 3d models into the engine, definitely one of my favorite features. The free 3d design program Blender is quite popular. It falls under the category of apps like Maya and 3d studio max but is free. And there's a really nifty tool called irrb which converts blender scenes and data to Irrlicht format. Perfect! (I used Blender to make the crappy "yo man" pic at the top of this post, following the "Blender 3d: Noob to Pro" tutorial. It didn't take very long at all. I have to say, though, learning Blender requires patience, as the interface is loaded with options and hotkeys and it's important to memorize these things.)

Furthermore, there's an effort to port Irrlicht to the Wii -- Wiirrlicht. Sweet.

Unfortunately on platforms like Android, it's gonna be a little harder to find a free engine to use, so I'll probably have to end up hacking together a simple one when I get serious about coding for that. I think iPhone has a few 3d engines to choose from though. Hopefully following the release of the Android 1.5 NDK, we'll see more useful engines ported over.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Light exercise while doing other things

The past few weeks I've been noticing myself fall into the same sort of pattern I seem to follow every summer. That means getting used to a lack of daily activity aside from commuting to and from work. You may know the feeling of descending into slothfulness, where each day you have less and less energy and you can practically feel your muscles atrophy. You also lose mental capacity in the areas of concentration and creativity, and of course get fatigued more quickly.

I began to wonder why, even when I controlled my diet somewhat well and went to the gym 2 or 3 times a week (for mostly weightlifting), I could still be affected by this malady after as little as a week of my sedentary behavior. People say you have to work out just a few times a week to stay healthy, right? However, I suspect the issue is that my downtime is generally less active than most people's. I won't go into detail here....

So this past week, on a whim, I started making small changes to work some light exercise into my daily routine. That means that at work, where I'm protected from prying eyes by my cubicle, I use the computer standing up half the time and do some frequent small motions like hopping and squatting and balancing. And a lot of stretching. I think I got a lot of the movements from the Tai Qi or Qi Gong classes I took before. Oh yeah, in case you're wondering, I have a laptop stand, so I don't have to lean over while standing.

At home, while reading an ebook, I walk around and do the same thing. When I feel a little sleepy at night sitting in front of the computer, I exercise a bit and can stay awake longer. In the morning, I roll out of bed and do some push ups and other random things to stress my muscles a bit and raise my pulse. I've also started having breakfast. A fruit and a waffle usually. Ah, and I've also cut soda (free cans at work) from my daily diet.

The result? I can concentrate so much better at work that I really can't believe it. Programming a set of functions that might have taken me a week to write before, I did in a day and a half. Ideas are so much clearer in my mind, and I no longer feel like falling asleep after lunch. When I come home I no longer feel a need to rest my brain by just sitting and watching videos and reading humorous Internet articles. I have enough energy to do creative things, like programming and drawing. When I breathe, I can feel the beauty of summer and life and the universe with every inhalation. I feel more positive and relaxed the whole day. I even feel a bit more sociable and have been more conversational with coworkers and my family the past few days since I've started on this regimen. (Well, that's also because of the weather, but whatever.)

Diet and exercise, Banzai!