Some tweaks to my play area fixed some problems. First, I re mapped it so the back of the room is now the “front” direction for Steam VR. This necessitated recalibrating the camera, but that process goes a lot faster after you’ve done it 20 or so times! The camera is also repositioned to capture more of the action… there’s still a lot going on you can’t see, I need additional green screens and higher ceilings to fix that. For some reason the “floor” in steam VR is off, it thinks the world ends at my ankles. shrug. It’s not worth remapping to fix though. The work continues!
Well, we have MVP. I made a mixed reality trailer of my favorite game, Space Pirate Trainer!
Some problems with it. It defaulted to flac, not mp4, so I can’t edit it with the software I know. The capture card for some reason is sending up very choppy images, so it looks like I’m moving around in some kind of weird time bubble. I have no idea why. The chroma key detecting the screen is pretty sloppy, which is probably due to the lighting, which needs improvement. I only have one green screen, so you can only see one vector instead of a whole bunch. The camera angle is lousy, and too close, it needs to be set farther back and up more. This will mean re calibrating it but I’ve kind of got the process down from doing it 30 times today. What else. There’s probably a scaling issue between the two cameras, I don’t think they’re mapped perfectly, I was kind of guessing at the resolutions, but until I get the image less choppy there’s no way to know for sure! Other than that… well, see for yourself. I dodge lasers like a pro, and got a new high score, 14900!
There’s more than one way to do mixed reality, and my approach was a kind of hodge podge of other techniques pioneered by my colleagues. The point is, there’s an unlimited number of correct ways to do MR, and a hundred ways for me to improve my process. This is just a first step and it was lots of fun taking it!
In Xi’An, you can take the subway to any of the four city gates (each something of a large citadel), climb up onto the city wall and… rent a bike. The wall is well over sixty feet wide, and one of very few intact after China’s recent cultural revolution. And it runs rectangular a total of 18 km – two walls of 6 km running east-west, and two more north-south running 3 km. Making ancient Xi’An 18 square km rectangle. The city has since sprawled well beyond these boundaries, but somehow the walls here have survived, when the walls in almost every other city are almost completely erased. I visited over 10 cities in China, and while they all had walls at one point – only two remained. This one, and the one in Hangzhou.
With many interesting “portally” things along the way – and even more plainly visible on both sides of the wall. The inside teems with commerce and culture, the brilliant progress of a city that is nearly three thousand years old, and the outside more of the same, but growing less focused as the city sprawls away off into the grey, misty, filthy air, off into the distance, as only a Chinese capital city can. Those hazy construction cranes in the background smog are an omni-present symbol in modern China.
So many of you are curious! You ask me, “Ken, what did you do in China?” and I just straight up dodge the question and instead pop up with some ridiculous anecdote which is a complete fabrication, about how I won a competitive dumpling eating contest, or fought a monk for supremacy at the shaolin temple, or I handled a class room full of kinder gardeners all on my own. Only one of those is true in its entirety. Though I did learn a little kung fu and tai chi, and boy howdy did I eat the dumplings like it was going out of style. I visited the shaolin temple and took pictures. I visited about 12 temples that I remember, it might be more. And the kinder gardeners? Well, they stand on their own merit and need no embellishment. They are best defined by their numbers and disposition – classes with as few as 7 and as many as 31. In both day and evening class settings. YES, I KNOW, RIGHT!?
Even so, it feels strange for me having lived something like that, retaining a fairly clear memory of it! In most cases. The fact is that I drank quite a lot over in China (it is a cultural thing I was happy to comply to), maybe not remembering it so well! I smoked cigarettes there too. You’re smoking anyway just breathing the air, and I didn’t want to be a complete pariah. I don’t know if these details interest the casual reader. But there are some things I could share with you. Like the day I bicycled on top of a city wall, or made friends with a lady named Chun-li (my name is Ken, if you recall). I could also tell you about the worst decision of my life: going on a yangtse river cruise. The horror of that journey still walks with me today. I am instinctively terrified of all boats now. Additionally, I was aware of many details while I was there, but details fade if not reviewed. My memories of the kids I taught are strong, they are with me and always will. But my interactions with say, their parents, who I also learned from, are less focused.
And I have three printed journals and exercise books I nearly filled while I was over there. Plus many kilobytes of text entries tucked away on my ipad. I thought this was all lost when my ipod got lost a year back, but no, I was able to recover everything from a local backup. The same thing happened with some of my photos, I thought they were gone, but nope, one day, checking every micro sim card I own for the most free space, I find what was missing. So, I guess that’s a win for me and my data management talents, which I’ve had since I was a kid and are really no big deal.
Of course, the photos and the text don’t tell the whole story. Oh, my photos are good, even the ones I took with my tiny but mighty iphone 4, (which was my constant companion and, after discovering ingress, my new best friend in the world). I don’t see the need for any fancy photo editing or enhancing, the raw product tells the story pretty well. I have great pictures of pandas and monkeys and all that kind of nonsense! However, I’ve taken a quick skim over a lot of what I wrote while I was out there, and a lot of it is just garbage. I’m sorry, it’s really just awful. There is a lot of nonsense about some girl I met out there. And perhaps some different girl? There’s stuff I don’t want to read, and if I don’t want to read it, you probably don’t either. Even if I excised entire chapters there’s still this undercurrent of pathetic nonsense, which would have been better channeled into writing awful poetry. And then printing it out and burning it. This seems like a sensible course for me.
The last problem, which I think I’ve been able to solve, is that my story, like so many others, doesn’t make any sense. I can’t sense any kind of theme that ties together what appear to me to be very disjointed and (god forgive me for using this too-often abused word); random events that make up my experience. But I kicked the idea around for a while, and decided that maybe THIS was the theme. You know, like a whole zen thing. It’s just absurd for no reason and that’s that. This explanation works for me, and I think I’m ready to run with it. Oh, my book won’t be as good as “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, or “River Town”, but why should that deter me from writing it anyway, and stealing liberally from both of those authors’ distinct styles! Nothing! That’s what.
I’ve already posted the city-wall bicycle story on G+, it wouldn’t take much to port it over. But this seems like the wrong place to start. If there’s going to be any semblance of order to my tale, it needs to be done chronologically. This is the only form of logic I can commit to, and your only home as a reader to derive some kind of narrative from this unruly mess I’m about to hurl in your general direction. Especially since some of the topics I might decide to address will likely skew into esoteric nonsense with zero warning. And the characters in my story – Friends, all of them – well, it seems a challenge but I’m going to try to let them speak for themselves. And I will have the good taste to omit the worst elements of their natures, as I sincerely hope they would be so forgiving to me.
So, Starting on February 1 or so, I will start pushing these blog posts to this branch of my blog. I’ll see if I can match up the pictures to the events, but no promises, I may do some entries that are just a tumblr blog of hi-res photographs. I’ll update once every couple of weeks throughout the year, matching my posts loosely with the time frame in which they occurred, about 3 years ago, in 2014. I hope you enjoy them. Honestly I just want to put this project to rest so I can start something new.
So, I have most of what I need to shoot mixed reality videos! It took some time to set up, especially moving things around, given my stamina is not back to 100%. Here’s what it looks like:
Not too bad right! Not picture is the video capture card I installed into Baby after lugging her across the room. And I still need to mount my third Vive wand onto the camera. However once that’s done, it should work. Biggest problem will probably be the lighting. I got a pretty nice kit, but it’s a bit underpowered, and doesn’t seem to penetrate all the way to the green screen.
I broke one of my own rules and tried a new game out. Usually I send someone else in but for some reason I’m short on volunteers at the moment. I played Arizona Sunshine. Holy shit, friends. This game is amazing. It makes my games look like a pile of crap. I can’t believe how well done everything is. They do things right that I couldn’t believe. The protagonist has an internal monologue. This is so often abused, but man the actor they got to read this story was damn good! The story itself, is also damn good! The gameplay is amazing, and fits with the story perfectly. Sound and graphics excellent, play control excellent, inventory excellent. No UI to speak of, which is excellent! Movement by teleport, best implementation I’ve seen lately. This is one of the best games I’ve ever played, and really fun and engaging. Only got stuck twice, and was able to pick up in the next session. I can’t believe I’ve only lost 4 hours of my life to this according to Steam. It feels like I lived half a life in there already. That kind of time dialation can only come from the adrenaline packed gameplay, where your fear response slows down time in your mind. Amazing.
I’m humbled and once more disheartened. How can I possibly complete with this! Hah, well, I can’t, on my own. This is the collective work of over thirty people focusing more energy and time than I have. It’s just another example of teamwork making the dreamwork.
Might as well share this with you as well, I’ve begun experiments on a new type of Nourishment:
Yes, I’m trying soylent! Early results are positive. I replace one meal a day, and so far it tastes pretty good, it’s filling, nutritious, and a huge time saver. The only thing negative about this is that it’s 100% food, and 0% fiber. So I’ve been expecting a disruption to my BM’s, but so far no disasters. Like that time I tried to eat my way through mainland China.
I’ve been at war with my own weight for 20 years now. While I’ve made substantial gains, total victory has been elusive, I’ve always plateaued in various places: 255 and 225 for a long time, 200 and 195 for just as long. And it’s my own poor eating habits that are to blame. Soylent looks to be a great new weapon for my arsenal. Each bottle is like a bullet dodged that would have otherwise hit me right in the waistline. I don’t have to quit food entirely, like I did during the master cleanse. But I could. I could even merge the two strategies come summertime. And compared to previous dietary mandates I’ve attempted (see above : “eat my way through mainland China”) … This one is much more sound. Of course, I’ve still been going crazy on some meals, for instance yesterday I went absolutely bonkers at the Brazilian bbq place down the street from my house. But what am I supposed to do? I have a Brazilian bbq place down the street from my house! Right next to jacks ribs and ale. Which is in turn down the street from surf taco, JR’s, Isu sushi, Ming Ying and the freakin ORIGINAL WINDMILL. And the inkwell. Forget the new Thai place, cafes and the weird juice bars… My street is a gastronomic minefield, and I’m out there risking it every single day people. The fact that I’ve survived as long as I have living in proximity to west end is a testament to my fantastic willpower and judgement, and I should be showered with praise and adulation for maintaining my awesome stalemate with myself! Compound that with my considerable cooking skills, and I feel like I have every reason to to be exited about my extraordinary achievement of non-progress!
I will keep you all posted on the early results of this fun little experiment.
Yes, the Commander Chair is the latest visible addition to my gaming armada. It’s been through some rigorous testing, and performed great. Needs some cable management improvement, but otherwise… Moving my HOTAS to my oculus setup has freed up my Vive for… Well, you’ll see. I’m still rigging the green screen and lighting over in my room scale setup. Pics of that will come when it’s nearer completion. In the mean time I’m moving subsystems one by one out of the big room and into the office. Leap Motion, webcam and DCS probably will be next.
I’ve had some great experiences and honestly I think Elite Dangerous looks a whole lot better through the Rift. I’ve had some fantastic play sessions, but as twitch streaming and webcam haven’t been set up here there’s no record. funny because all the times I HAVE recorded have been embarrassing failures. But, I joined one of the best player groups in the game: East India Company. And I’ve been helping my new friends take shit over. I’ve been flying my Anaconda in conflict zones and making tons of money and rank in the process. Now I’m hunting bounties, since the last war was won in short order.
Today I say goodbye to my PlayStation 4 and PSVR.
I sold it on Craigslist for a little more than what I paid for it. It’s a wonderful product, however the games are too few and too expensive. And developing for this platform is a pipe dream. They open their doors for larger established studios only, and I’m the opposite of that. The headset is great, but still a cut below my PC headsets. Same is true for the camera and controllers. Honestly, I don’t spend any time playing it. Even when I was basically crippled lying on a recliner in my living room, I didn’t want to play it! I’m not a console player, never was, it’s always been PC for me, and no single product will likely change that. I’m going to push through the last bunch of free demos and hand this off to a family that will appreciate it much more than I did. And I, in turn, will appreciate their cash in hand. I will miss Robot Rescue though, that game helped show me what console VR could be at its best. The tank demo, battle zone is awesome too. Hopefully these games will be able to sneak back into my library on either oculus or vive. ( I know I have Gary the gull on pretty much every platform)
My favorite VR experience right now after E:D is Accounting. If you are anywhere near someone with a Vive, go to them, and tell them to “put me into accounting”. You will not regret it!
Amazon tells me my Oculus Touch controllers will appear at my door tomorrow. I got to try them out at VRDC and I liked them a lot. Will I grow my oculus setup to full room scale? Not sure. We’ll try standing room only first.
Today I hope to get my first MR green screen video shot, and maybe another video of flying in ED added to my twitch channel. Last one had issues with centering the view, I’ll try to fix this time. My twitch link:
Ok my thumbs are tired since for some reason I’m updating with my phone. Oh yeah to share pictures. CMDR out
Continuing to make progress. I found out that the muscle that hates me is my right side serratus anterior. This little baby lives underneath your lats, and connects the ends of your ribs to… other parts elsewhere. But yes, these are breathing muscles, they expand your rib cage as you breathe. And they hurt if you strain them… for 4 to 6 weeks. So I guess I’d just better settle in and wait. I can sustain moderate activity for a few hours each day. Any more than that and the pain grows to a point where it’s difficult to rest or sleep.
I have everything I need to shoot green screen mixed reality videos in Unity, and probably also in 1st person layered view for non-unity applications. But it means moving a bunch of furniture around my studio and rigging up green screens, plus extending the padded floor and walls of my play area another 4 feet, and I’m not up for it yet. Still kind of excited to be doing this!
After doing two live twitch streams last week (which nobody watched!) I put up my first video. It’s not impressive… it’s my usual routine of taking my biggest ship in Elite Dangerous into a war zone, and racking up as many kills as I can before I’m forced to withdraw. I don’t know what it is about playing in VR, but I seem to make a lot more mistakes while flying. Stupid things like forgetting to turn on my shield boosters or deploying my hard points, whatever. My first attempt at the video saw me get soundly thrashed as I accidentally joined the wrong side in a war and got beat to within an inch of my life by NPC’s. don’t think I’ll be posting that. This time I had some kind of problem with my radar and shot a lot of friendly ships, causing them to turn on me… repeatedly. Still, the amazing thing is that I’ve been able to make all these wonderful mistakes without being destroyed. I stumble a lot, but don’t fall. It’s encouraging. I think this is my twitch channel, go check it out to see my first video. Still working out details on my very old web cam, and my very new logitech microphone, sometimes the audio gets recorded twice and it’s annoying as hell.
I think that’s my link, need to double check
Once I get the green screen working, I’ll see if I can get a video of Vivecraft working… mine craft in VR! I have it installed and working on my Rift PC, need to move it over to my room scale setup. And possibly buy an account, since it’s a subscription game.
Found my old iphone 4, looking into turning it into a cheap cardboard device. It means updating the firmware. Never a good idea for iphones, but, what do I have to lose? I’ve been using this thing pretty much as an ipod touch that can run Spotify. But there was a time when this was my only device. I had this baby jail broken and unlocked, and it was my only companion while I was ravaging china. And not so much as a scratch on it. I’m going to try to run cardboard on it. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I put my Playstation VR on Craigslist, there are people there willing to pay more than I did to get it, so I might as well come out ahead on this one. I like the product… a lot, really! But in terms of performance it’s a cut below the PC-based alternatives, there’s a very sparse selection of games, many of which I already own on the PC, and those games are priced foolishly high, compared to their PC alternatives. So yeah, love the console, but PC & Vive win the day. The only console I need is the new nintendo classic, which is just about impossible to find, anywhere, at any price. Figures.
I thought I lost most of my china journals. I kept three… two paper journals, and one on my ipad. When my ipad was destroyed, I thought all those entries were lost. But no, I had them backed up on “ol’ Grindy”, my venerable HP desktop replacement. Couldn’t believe that stuff was still there, but I managed to restore my old ipad from an even older backup, and yup, all my entries are there. So I think I’ll start posting them. I’ll just do it on a 2 year delay, starting in February, when I went out there. I am somewhat looking forward to this. A lot of the entries are garbage and drivel, but I feel like a few rounds of editing, plus some nice pictures, could help create an engaging story people might want to read. The nice part about this project is that it’s 90% done and has been for over a year. I just need to do the final bit of polish.