Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Resolution to a Resolution!

I don't know why, but I have felt mostly tired this month. Having a Thyroid condition can affect most of what you try to do day by day when most people can quite comfortably manage without any issues. At the end of each working day and week, it feels as if I have had travelled on a long haul flight halfway across the world. Ironically, even if I have a day off or when the weekend comes, it is still the same if a little less. Lethargy comes to mind! I guess this all comes with the territory of having an underactive Thyroid.  So, please do forgive me if I mention this each month or periodically. 😡

The weather has really come up trumps this month with lots of nice sun and rain to cools things down a little bit but to also water natures garden. I have taken a precautionary measure and bought some Hayfever Antihistamines and touch wood, so far everything is okay with limited sneezing fits. 😲

LEGO :: ( Star Wars | 75193 Millennium Falcon Microfighter )
Here is a cute little set ideally themed for " May 4th Be with You " during the month of May. The build was fun and it is nice to have a Chewbacca mini-figure. πŸ˜‰ I picked this up from Asda Living during an ad-hoc shopping trip with Mrs A. 😍

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees )
During some testing on a Laptop, it suddenly dawned on me that the screen resolution was too deep from a Y dimension sense. The original resolution was 1024 x 768, but I found that this proved graphically difficult during gameplay. So, I have decided to change the resolution throughout the whole game to 800 x 600. Of course, the scrolling screens will stay at 800 x 3840 or thereabouts.
The main game itself should remain unchanged but will make it more compatible with Laptops and PC's with similar resolutions, especially full-screen. For the moment the main design and collision detection are set, so the change of path is actually good because I wanted to change the design of the background tiles. Once this is done, I can apply phased checking and tidying until I am happy. Not to forget plenty of playtesting! πŸ•ΉπŸ˜‰

PC :: ( Windows 10 | Version 1803 Update )
Normally, I say normally, a Windows update is fairly straightforward and shouldn't pose too much of a problem. Unfortunately, this time for me, there was an issue that just wasn't going to go away. For almost an entire week my PC didn't want to update and everything else was functioning correctly.

Some of the solutions to remedy the issue were a bit too radical, like, re-installing Windows altogether. That in itself would take several days during a working week or an entire week. Well, after some further investigation, I found out that clearing a certain folder could be the answer. According to a site called Driver Easy, my problem of " Windows 10 Upgrade Stuck at 99% " was pretty much solved. The folder in question was " C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution ". There are some other methods which involve stopping and starting services and running " Windows Update Troubleshooter ". The clear winning solution was to delete the entire contents of the Software Distribution folder, but I did have to revert to doing this in Safe Mode as Windows was protecting a few files for whatever reason. Within a couple of hours, I was fully updated and nothing was lost or broken. I did make a few backups, Differential and FULL just to be safe. So, yes! Phew! That's that until another big Windows update! 😝

And finally ...





Saturday, April 28, 2018

Game Development from 30 years ago!

What an interesting month this has been! And it really hasn't been without a dull moment with plenty going on, even if in small amounts. The weather has brought us both warm temperatures and rain. I am looking forward to the month of May onwards with warmer days ahead. 😊
 
Whilst out on a walk with a work friend, we came across a fully working water pump which uses water from a nearby stream. The water is generally used for an Allotment 🌱 a very short distance away and I wouldn't even attempt to drink from its source. 😬
Ah! Its Chicago's finest on a slightly rainy day in Stratford-upon-Avon. πŸ˜ƒ I never thought we'd see a Ford Police car πŸš” in really good condition and that looked the part, even if it was parked on the top floor of a car park.
Construction Cranes everywhere! At the moment Oxford has them scattered all over the place because of a slight boom of business and housing projects. It just seems ironic at the moment that there some many of them. 😡

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees )
The official collision detection switch on happened this month and the game plays really well. At the moment I can complete the entire game in less than 10 minutes. Easy said when I know the game itself inside out. Some tweaks definitely need to be applied in order to make the gameplay longer and at the moment when your weapon overheats, the energy is replenished. I think this needs to be switched off and the challenge itself will become more.
I did find one bizarre bug where an end level boss hit count stopped working. After some reverse step diagnosis, I discovered that the collision detection mask had been set to a square outside of the main sprite. Thus the reason for the boss hit count not working and thanks to displaying the varibles on the screen, I could see that everything was working. The Earth enemy boss was the only one affected, leaving the Wind and Fire bosses A O.K.! 😊

On the Title screen when the scoring objects are displayed are I wanted to include a rank system that equalled to a score and then display a word or phrase. For several days I could get the piece of code to work, until tried the following :

if (scorehi > 501 && scorehi < 1000) // Checks for variable greater than 501 and less than 1000

 Hey! Presto! It worked and now scores can now have a certain word or phrase! 😊

Phantom - The Mission :: ( Commodore 64 | Shooter - Shoot'em up Construction Kit )
This year marks the 30th anniversary since the release of Phantom - The Mission on the Commodore 64. It was created using the Shoot'em up Construction Kit ( SEUCK ). Having read reviews of SEUCK in several computer magazines, I was eagerly anticipating it's release. Then came the day, after a days work at my work placement on the Youth Training Scheme, I headed into Oxford City and straight to Boots the Chemist. They sold Music and Video games back in the 1980's! Being 1988 and it's general release being 1989, there might have been a few months lapse with me purchasing it.
Commodore 64 Setup from 1988/9
What made me most excited about this creative piece of software, was the fact that you didn't need any programming experience. Just an idea for a game and it's rules! Even now in 2018, games are still being created with SEUCK and additional software add-ons and modified versions help expand your creations even further.

If I had any regrets about my creativity in the 1980's with the Commodore 64, it would that my mind didn't understand programming more, especially with Machine Code. I know there were many books for beginners, but my mindset was quite different back then than it is today.
Despite the fact that Phantom - The Mission was created using a game creator tool, I was very proud and even more so for it to be published on a monthly disk magazine called Commodore Disk User. I still have the very same magazine and disk from all those years ago. A friend at the time, David Axtell helped with the creation and we earned £100 ( GBP ). In today's money that would be around £250 ( GBP ).
PC - Phantom Millennium
In 2010, I made an attempt to recreate the Phantom - The Mission experience with Phantom Millennium. Thinking back that that was eight years ago now and my game design and techniques have come along way since then. All of the games I design, always prove interesting in terms of problems that occur and solutions that evolve in remedying a bug or problem.

Crowdfunding :: ( Symphony 64 - The Collection | Reformation 2 )
With the kindness of Mrs. A, two late coming Commodore 64 crowd funding albums have been bought for me. Symphony 64 - The Collection ( Chris Abbott ) and Reformation 2 ( Matt Gray ).
Symphony 64 - The Collection ( Chris Abbott ) is due for release late Summer 2018 and  Reformation 2 ( Matt Gray ) late May into June 2018. After this, I will have more than enough music to keep my ears entertained for the coming months and years. 🎡 😊

And finally ...





Saturday, March 31, 2018

Speed Champions and Virgin Media

I was not surprised to see the snow ☃ again this month, even though now we have had more rain. Snow is nice, just as long as you don't have to travel in it. Last weekend was daylight savings, so we are now moving towards lighter mornings and evenings. 😊
The above photo was taken in a supermarket car park, Aldi to be precise. I thought the shrubbery looked quite interesting amongst the snow. Thankfully, the car park was well gritted and no skidding or wheel spins took place whilst parking. πŸš—

Virgin Media ::
Last summer, a Virgin Media sales guy knocked on our door and informed us that their services were being installed in the area. We were offered a " Lightning Deal " special offer! However, the Broadband contract with EE was still locked in for another eight months. If we switched then, we would've had to pay several half payment months to end the contract. Thankfully, Virgin Media locked in the deal for us and at the end of February 2018, we had their services installed. 😁
The Tivo V6 box is really awesome and allows for up to six programs to be recorded at once and the extra channels and programmes are a welcome addition to Freeview ones. I have noticed that the internet speed is only around 38mb. The lowest available speed in 50mb and the next is 100mbs ( our package speed ). At the moment, I am not sure why it is this low! I am thankful to have a respectable speed and our phone now uses VOIP technology.

LEGO :: ( Speed Champions | 75885 Ford Fiesta M-Sport WRC )
As March was the month of my Birthday πŸŽ‚ ( and Mrs A ), I decided to buy a LEGO set, a Speed Champions one. This is my first of this theme. I really liked the build and design but didn't like the fact that there are lots of stickers. I can only think that it is much cheaper to produce a sticker set include printed bricks. If I can at any point, I'll look out for another set of stickers on eBay or Bricklink.















Gaming :: ( PC / Commodore 64 )
Not surprisingly again, on my birthday πŸŽ‚, I decided to buy two games πŸ•Ήfor just over £10 GBP. The first game or games is a pack or anthology called GameDevDan vs Life which is available on Steam. For less than £5 GBP you get 50 games covering different genres with lots of interesting types of gameplay. It definitely comes along way from the Cascade 50 Games Tape back in the 1980's. There is more passion and effort with GameDevDav vs Life for sure. Worth every penny! πŸ˜‰
The next purchase £6 GBP was Galencia for the Commodore 64 by Jason Aldred.  This is an awesome shoot'em up including 50 levels loosely based on Galaga, but even more addictive. I quite embarrassingly can't get off level 5 at the moment!
I am currently playing this awesome game on RetroPie via the Vice Commodore 64 emulator, bringing it home on the big screen Television. I try to spend a good few minutes every month if I can to play some classic games. It helps me unwind and brings back nostalgia for the good old computing days! 😍

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees )
This month I only worked on a couple of things and the collision detection event is going to happen during the month of April. Luckily, I have a few days off over the Easter period for which I'll use some free moments. The weather element features have worked rather well and the Fire level will star a spouting fire geyser.
There is still more cosmetic tweaking to do and that will be attended to during the phase by phase checking until I am happy that everything is looking and working as expected.

And finally ...

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Frosts and Flowers!

I pretty much survived this month avoiding potholes and enduring frosty mornings. Although, it is a bit confusing when it rains the next day? πŸ˜• I will be glad when spring finally arrives, seeing Snow Drops around is a reassuring sign that warmer temperatures are on the way. 😊
Our Amaryliss has flowered. It was given as a gift with a Christmas Hamper and didn't take too long to grow from the bulb over the last couple of months. It makes me feel very cheery indeed! πŸ˜„

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees )
We are nearly approaching a point where the big collision detection and game testing phase begins. I am hoping that it will work out to be a gradual difficulty progression, although I have a feeling it may be a bit random.
I finished the intro and game complete screens. There may well be some changes to these, but the overall placement gives an idea of what I wanted. The current build of 16 Degrees is now close to its first phase of completion. I usually like to do several phases making improvements wherever needed. 😎

Sound effects haven't been added yet, but I have an idea of what  I would like use. You really can't beat vocal effects being edited in Audacity! πŸ˜ƒ

And finally ...





Saturday, January 27, 2018

He's Batman!

I wasn't aware that January has now been labelled as being a great way of buying through now called " Blues Sales ". Okay for those with some spare cash! 😐 It can also be a long month, especially straight after Christmas, until next payday. It's also a smart idea to start saving now for the festive build up now, so everything is financially prepared for towards the end of the year. πŸ˜‰

My productivity levels have been pretty good with game development and I got further with tweaks and a few bug fixes. I have also been feeling very good well being wise, apart from Thyroid related conditions, like feeling tired. This is quite common and typical, although I think I may have a cold rolled in for good measure! 😬

LEGO :: ( BrickHeadz | 41585 Batman )
Thanks to a little bit of Christmas money giving as a gift, I treated myself this LEGO Brickheadz Batman which cost £9.99 GBP. The build time was about 10 minutes at a leisurely pace. I quite like this range of characters and hope get Robin and at a later date.
GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees )
I managed to do a reasonable amount of gamedev over the last few weeks, including a Joystick routine that I thought was going to be difficult, but as it turned out, was in fact fairly easy after deconstructing each element.
A basic intro is now in place, as well as an attract mode where the Title screen alternates between the Credits and an Objects and Scoring section. This is all timed and the game can be started at any time so the player doesn't have to wait any further. There is still more to do with the placement of Enemy Objects and background Tiles, not forgetting the *BIG* collision detection switch on where the whole game itself will be tweaked for playability and lastability. Let's hope the game gets a fair few minutes of gameplay! πŸ•Ή

RetroPie ::
Over the last few weeks, I have managed to work out how to install more game systems on the RetroPie, including the Commodore Amiga and 64. All these leaves are trying to work out what games I want to put on? Perhaps a few quick play titles? πŸ•ΉI can always use the save state feature if the gameplay is longer than a few minutes! 😊
Although Pac-Man was one of the first games I played on RetroPie, Thing on a Spring came a close second, especially with the awesome soundtrack by Rob Hubbard! πŸŽ΅πŸ˜‰

And finally ...





Tuesday, December 26, 2017

It's Snowing and Santa has been

Here comes the Snow! ❆ The timing was pretty much perfect with the lead up to Christmas. πŸŽ„ 😊 Even though a lot had fallen over many hours and our housing estate looked pretty major, I was still able to commute to work without any issue. However, for several days there were severe mornings with black ice. Thankfully, every road I had to travel on was treated with grit by the Oxfordshire County Council Highways team. πŸ‘ 

Christmas 2017 ::
Even though this has been a relatively quiet Christmas, it has been one of the best for many, many years. Mrs. A and I have enough food and drink and togetherness to keep up happy and content for the entire festive period. My anxiety and stress levels have now pretty much disappeared, which is not only amazing but perfectly timed as well. We had a nice selection of presents, Toiletries, Clothes, and Chocolates. πŸ˜‹πŸ’“ Two of main presents were unexpected, but very welcoming all the same. One of the presents from Mrs. A was a Cross Stitch Kit. I wanted to start another hobby and maybe do some basic retro gaming designs.
Even though the design may take a while to do, it's something different and also cute. I really like the Tiger and Bees that surround it! 😊

The next present was really, really unexpected. I had been mulling over the decision on purchasing this device, after the disappointing failure with the Eee PC. So, an Amazon parcel arrives for Mrs. A and me, she gets a fantastic Picnic Basket with all the items required and I receive the following ... 😲
Mrs. A's brother, John had surprised us again this year and with me, it was a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. One of my first decisions with this wonderful device, was to install RetroPie. This would be the ultimate multi-arcade platform retro experience! 😍

I managed to figure out how to install game ROM files for specific systems, this involves copying them from a USB memory stick to a system RetroPie ROM folder, for example, ZX Spectrum where the files can be loaded from.
The interface of Retropie is fairly intuitive and there is plenty of options available to tweak the whole environment to your liking.
Over the coming weeks and months, I should be able to get all my favourite games loaded onto the system and boot up for a quick game or two whenever I feel the need. No need for long undate files and patches like modern day consoles! 😬 
I watched Shin Godzilla on DVD ( present from Mrs.A ) Christmas Day as there was nothing much else on Television. It was a really good reboot from the original 1954 version. The tweak to the storyline and added special effects were truly amazing! Well worth watching! πŸ˜ƒ
During December, Mrs. A came to ther rescue and purchased another fitness band for me. This is an M2 band from ThinkRace. Their products can be bought through outlets like Amazon and eBay. The reason why I changed from my MiFit device, was because it was inadvertently lost literally down the Toilet when a replacement band fell apart during that flushing meadows moment we partake everyday or whenever. To think about it now, is nothing short of being hilarious. I heard a chink, but thought of it just being a coin or my keys falling on the floor! 😁

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter - 16 Degrees )
Up until Christmas, I hadn't done much game development. However, I plan to start turning on the collision detection to see how crazy, sorry, I mean the gameplay is going to pan out. I would say the drawing or pixelling is currently taken most of the time. But it is something that I really enjoy, whilst trying to fit it in around other projects and other life commitments.
Over the holiday I have, I hope to get a bit further with the game. Whilst still not forcing myself to rush the overall project. Pacing myself is far better than rushing any progress. Next year should bring much more and you never know, the game will be completed at some stage! 😎

Into the New Year ::
I have to say that 2017 had brought some challenging situations, which I managed to overcome and resolve. The key thing was not to give up and ask for help whenever and where possible. This definitely worked out to be a better focus for the future. πŸ‘

And finally ...




Saturday, December 9, 2017

Shirt Buttons

Apart from food and a roof over our heads, money is an important factor in everyday life. Sometimes we don't realise this, as it is programmed automatically within us through a process. At the end of each week or month from a paid job or benefits, we pay our way, as we eat, breath and sleep. It isn't until the movement of the financial pendulum, suddenly turning into a chaotic motion, that brings us to understand that there is a problem.
Shirt Buttons - When it's all the money you have!
The glamour and enticement of obtaining credit through finance or retail outlets are all too easy and straightforward. Only the creditor can see the potential with ample amounts of an annual percentage rate, which can vary so much between banks and lenders. If we can't afford to pay off the full amount each month, we pay the minimum and get charged interest as a result. It's always been this way, especially with insurance policies. " You can't pay the full policy in advance? That's no problem, pay it over 11 months with a deposit we'll charge you extra! " - It's too late! They've stung you without even realising it!

And through desperation, we turn to credit when everyday bills rise and the rent or mortgage is due. Some say the saddest thing, is when credit is used to buy food or a food bank is relied upon just fill an empty stomach. We do what we need to do, in order just to survive!
  Debt is now all too common, it's ridiculous!

And so, for me, I fell into secondary debt through a loan and credits cards which had built up over many years! It bit me like a rabid Dog or a frenzied Shark swimming the perilous seas, as I drowned with no sign of surviving. But there is always hope and it starts with asking for help from one of the many debt advice charities and organisations. I took my first brave step and contacted Christians Against Poverty (CAP) in April 2017.

Throughout the duration of being in debt, the creditors wrote letters and phoned pretty much constantly. The phone calls must have been well over 200 times across several months, which seemed a real waste of energy and my circumstances hadn't changed at all. From day one, I suffered from crying, sleepless nights, stress, depression, lack of appetite and experienced scary types of anxiety attacks, which involved dizziness and vomiting! Each and every step has been taken seriously which is no wonder why I have felt so tired and exhausted. It really does hit you hard and to think there are some out there in the big wide world that commits suicide as a last resort to finding a way out. It is so sad, it's frightening for someone to follow that path! Life is so precious and a person with that frame of mind taking their final decision is very hard to comprehend. I did ironically attend a stress and anxiety course through Talking Space Plus in June 2017, which was very beneficial. Even though the accumulation of anxiety had been building up before and after the course.

During my amazing debt support with CAP, I attended a money course where I learned lots of new and useful ideas on how to budget and save. You then begin to realise that one of the bases of credit in some ways, is to get what you want quicker! Rather than taking the more sensible route of saving and waiting. We tend to live in a utopian world of credit which is sadly classed as the norm nowadays.

I have also learned that there are two main types of debt, primary and secondary. Primary covers; mortgages, rent, local taxes, utilities, cable, and satellite etc. Secondary covers, loan, credit cards etc. Although both types of debt aren't good to fall behind with. Primary carries the most serious consequences with secondary the lesser. So, it is very important to ask for help when the moment everything financially becomes difficult.

One of the most difficult things is to speak up about debt. It's far too easy for some to be judgemental and shame a person for their situation. The ignorance and reaction can be detrimental to persons well being and mental health. It is one thing being in debt, but to be mocked and ridiculed, is another thing altogether!

My end to debt has closed with going insolvent with my fee paid for by kind charities and donations known through CAP. It now means that I have a fresh start and even though my credit score will be affected for six years, I will no longer have to carry the weight of financial pressure and can live a normal life again.