OSC in Games?

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Had Some Fun This Weekend

Had some fun this weekend :D

So something I've always wanted to have was a decent way of sequencing stuff in games. What does that mean Gaz? Well most super nice things in games are a sequence of events that creating some sort of nice audio visual 'stuff'

Demo-scene coders do this very well and generally use some sort of script specifying what happens when so the music and visuals get nicely synced. It was pretty interesting looking at how these guys did things after a few of the bigger groups chucked a load of their tools and source onto github a couple of years ago.

I'm kind of a lazy swine who doesn't like editing text files, the way this stuff is mostly done and always thought that this would rule if you had some sort of time line you could vary parameters, trigger events and do all that kind of stuff.

Loads of programs have this kind of thing, Max, Maya, Final Cut Pro and even some game engines; Unity, CryEngine and the excellent Unreal Engine 4.

But you know what? This is for home hobby projects. All of those things are tightly bound to either and activity (editing animation, music, videos) or to a specific technology (as is the case with UE4, Unity and CryEngine). I don't really want that, I'd rather write my own cack handed gaming tech that can be instrumented to receive parametric data from any old external program.

So I got a good part of that working after jack-dawing some existing technology and shoehorning it together. Tech piece the first:

OSC

Open Sound Control is a protocol for sending 'stuff'. It's basically a MIDI replacement that fills in some of the horrible gaps MIDI has (low parameter resolution, lag, built around a physical transport {cables! Yuck!}) that can work over the network nicely.

There's a slew of OSC clients and a great little library called OscPack that can receive OSC chatter. And now tech part the second.

Vezér

And this is a generic OSC time line editor. With this you can send information to an OSC server, information that you edit in multiple channels and gets played back, nicely interpolated and sent to an OSC server. It's nice and general, can control MIDI too if you like it and you can find it here.

The Results

Early days but I have a little flying around demo that takes only a couple of inputs (time and field of view) but I got those hooked up to a time line I'd edited.

And it works nicely. The cuts are done by jumping different time points and then increasing / decreasing time at different rates. They sync with some music playing and despite being very remedial looks nice and was easy to put together.

Ha! I even got my iPad controlling the thing using [TouchOsc][touchosc] as you can see below. It's great, the game hasn't a clue what's telling it to do the stuff it's doing. An excellent detachment of mechanics and content :)

There's a lot of potential here. Next up I'm going to try and hook Logic via an OSC -> MIDI bride. Vezér is good but expensive to buy (I already own Logic) and though admirable is a little bit rough around the edges. The other thing I might try is hooking up a tracker like Renoise that already has OSC support directly built in. I wouldn't lose a load of parameter resolution that way and would have less need value interpolation in the game.

XBOX One

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A little bit late to the party but I hooked up an XBOX ONE at home this weekend. It's pretty good! I really like the voice interface, it's incredibly spooky selecting, playing, pausing and watching Netflix by barking out commands. And it seems to have an anti griefing feature: my boy cottoned on pretty quickly and tried telling it "XBOX WEAR MUMMY'S BRA". It didn't wear mummy's bra. Or pause, or stop of go home or do anything the boy asked it to do. Phew!

No gamez though. No ones I like anyway. Had a quick blast on Killer Instinct. Beautifully made but not really my type of thing. But I am looking forward to Titanfall. Had some enormously good times playing Call Of Duty 4 a few years back and it'd be nice to return to team based blasting with the added bonus of some Crackdown-esque agility. And mechs of course. Great big filthy mechs. Everyone loves those yeah?

Maybe We're Not So Rubbish After All

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Wow. It's easy to have eagle eyes when calling out the flaws and problems in the world you work in but sometimes it takes startling fuck ups in related industries to appreciate the near impossible things that actually get done right.

On the way into work I was reading this article on the New Yorker about the launch troubles of http://healthcare.gov the web portal to help US citizens get reasonably priced health insurance.

This is staggering. Post 9/11 the FBI contracted S.A.I.C to update their information systems from a highly antiquated software suite that didn't even allow agents to share pictures to a system that'd help rather than hinder investigation into big cases. The project was initially scoped as costing $12m. It's not that unusual for software projects to test their budgets but the eventual cost? An amazing $600m. Even worse the project was canned in 2005. Amazing.

In games there's a lot if self flagellation about poor project management practises, antiquated development methodologies. The baseline assumption seems to be everything is wrong and there's likely a better way, maybe already practised in "proper software development"

But that said a 500 fold increase in budget for a system that never shipped? It's a whole new world of fuck up and surprisingly not a unique or even unusual story. Last year Standish estimated an annual cost of large scale failed software projects of $55bn with only 33% of the projects surveyed able to be classed as a success. It's not just localised to the states either; there are massive problems for our own Universal Credit system as well.

Every year the games industry deliver increasingly compels software in a pretty timely manner close to budgetary constraints. And because of platform cert constraints on console the projects delivered are relatively bug free. Improvement is important but sometimes we should also take the time to acknowledge there's a lot of magic being made in our world that the rest of the software development industry would find hard to match

Wind Waker - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

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Slight update from my last post about this amazing game. Doing a fairly tortuous maze puzzle in a sunken wreck actually had us drawing a map. An actual map. On paper. Amazing. Felt like being 14 again in a good way :D It was scrappy as fuck but I might scan and post it here later.

Games I Can Heartily Recommend : Wind Waker HD

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Zeldaselfie

Here's a tale, it has no inisghts or big moments and is more a testament to my previous ignorance to excellence rather than the mostly un contented excellence of Zelda. And the particular Zelda? It's Windwaker HD on the WiiU that's a massively pleasurable time sink for me and the boy over the last few weeks.

Just generally it's a bit weird that the majority of gaming hours I've managed to spend recently has been on the least successful of the current crop of consoles. The WiiU has sold the least, has the smallest software library and isn't really seen as a success. Even so on a relatively paltry install base Zelda Wind Waker HD, a single SKU title, is number 7 in the world wide software charts:

zeldacharts

You just can't bet against the power of those first party titles; despite constant retreading over old ground they're evergreens in terms of sales and demonstrates the enormous power of proven approaches even if it's at the expense of innovation. Mario, Zelda, Pokeymans and others; they're gaming James Bond minus the mis-steps or Pixar before they did a big dirty all over themselves with Cars 2.

cars2

So this is kind of ludicrous, hooraying Zelda at this stage in it's evolution and hardly a controversial point of view but I'm a johnny come lately here and wanted to get down my conversion as much for my own benefit as anything else.

I never clicked with Zelda, N64's Ocarina Of Time was my first exposure to the series and I hated it. The only subject I showed any consistency at school was SPORTZ. Not in a good way mind, just regularly bringing in self penned sick notes in the hope of avoiding it. So Ocarina of Time and all that running around on Hyrule field at the start? Pretty tedious and even worse felt like doing virtual PE. "Unfortunately Gary is not able to play Zelda due to a dicky tummy, Garys Mum" I wrote in my head to get out of it.

That's kind of sacrilegious if you're a gamer and it was pretty obvious a me problem was rather than a Nintendo one. In those cases life's usually too short to bother with things you're not clicking with but I work in games, Zelda releases are generally important. I bought every release, gave theme far from half hearted play and hated them all. There are a few games I have that kind of relationship. It's gaming tax that levied by "event" titles you need to understand to have a shared vocabulary with the world you work in. GTA is another one for me; admirable but not my thing.

uturn

Yep I hated them all. Until Skyward Sword. Something changed there but it's impossible for me divine what that was. Ostensibly on the outside bar the addition of wand waving wii-ness there's not a lot new there, the usual Nintendo refinement and shining of their key franchises rather that stepping outside what they've always been. I don't know why but the usual four hours of play brick wall I never previously clambered over just never turned up. I have NO INSIGHT into why this was. Hazzarding a guess it might even be a horrendous contrariness so out of hand it picked an argument with itself :) I dunno. I'm glad though, whatever the reason it's left me with 38 hours of pure gaming delight :)

As for Wind Waker HD, it's been grand. I've really loved playing with my 5 year old son as active observer. He'll pilot the boat on some of the longer journeys but would rather back seat drive when it comes to do anything of heft. And he's been great, lovely seeing him get to grip with new concepts and skills; understanding a big story arc, grasping the idea of extended puzzles and actually make great suggestions that have helped us in quite a few quests. This morning I had a bunch of pre-work prep to do before heading off but when Charlie came downstairs the first thing he wanted to do was get back into Zelda and hunt for Triforce shards. I started to say I'm a bit busy but that went nowhere :D We got 3 more.

So we're near the end and after that we'll try some more. And I know on the next one we try he'll be driving more than directing which is great. I've no problem with him spending time in this world at all.

It's likely to be Ocarina of Time on 3DS next despite some warnings from pals that there's a divisional split between the similar-ish Wind Waker / Skyward Sword and the rest of the series. Maybe I can hold onto a bit of hate after all. Sincerely hoping not though, it's been an absolute delight.

gaz