Adventures in Game Development

Echo here. It’s been pretty miserable in Seattle this past week. A heavy layer of fog has clung to just about everything near sea level, and our famously clean air has turned into a stagnant choking cloud of smog. Fortunately, one can take advantage of the inversion effect and escape the grey by gaining some altitude, so Boone and I decided to use last weekend to test the theory. Also, we wanted pancakes.

So we headed out into the Cascades and found ourselves some bright sun and a pancake house 3,000 feet up. I can’t say much for the pancakes, but it was great to see daylight and play in snow over our heads.

On our way back home, we stopped by a stony bank of the Snoqualmie river which is one of our favorite summer chill out spots when the seasonal drought makes it lazy and low. We were in desperate need of some new rocks for our project to help build up the island biomes, and this was an ideal spot for collecting. I love scanning rocks because they’re the ideal subject in almost every way. They’re assymetrical and not very reflective, which means 123D Catch gives us great results. They’re a wide target for the camera, so I don’t need to babysit it as I take a set of photos (thinner objects require a lot of camera adjustment to keep the target in focus). And, they’re heavy so I don’t need to worry about them getting knocked about during the photo shoot.

We came home with a huge bag of rocks, so I went to work feverishly scanning them all in. Unfortunately when I was just about finished, my Canon Digital Rebel. which has been extremely reliable up until now, decided to throw in the towel. Except for just a sliver across the top, every photo taken is entirely black. Sad panda.

Being indie and small and poor, buying a new SLR camera just wasn’t an option. But the camera is sort of the linchpin to the entire project, so a solution had to be found. I began checking ebay and craigslist for used cameras that might make a suitable replacement. Naturally though, I was curious about what actually went wrong with my camera, and I was surprised to find that this was actually a very common problem with my model. Apparently, this $1,000 camera has a tiny 2-millimeter wide plastic pin in it, which allows the auto-focus mirror to swing out of the way when a photo is taken. That mechanism sees a lot of action, and when it wears out the pin snaps and the mirror blocks the shot, hence the mostly black photos.

After a little more investigation, I came across a great DIY guide for fixing the problem. Apparently it can be fixed without any special equipment, but it requires a lot of finesse. Also, you have to take virtually the entire camera apart (the front back, top, 30+ screws and a circuit board or two need to all be moved out of the way to get to the stupid pin). But I figured, the camera’s toast if I do nothing and the cost to have it professionally repaired would certainly exceed the camera’s value, so I had nothing to lose. Four hours later, I had the whole thing apart on the table, but wasn’t feeling very optimistic. I had shocked myself twice on a rather large capacitor that was still holding a nice healthy charge even through the batteries had been removed, and at one point I had triggered some portion of the disemboweled innards of the camera to give off a blinding flash. By then I couldn’t imagine a world where I hadn’t already fried a circuit board. But I was there to do a job and I came this far, so I figured that I might as well finish. I replaced the broken pin easily enough and reassembled the camera expecting to have a new paper weight, and was blown away when the damn thing actually turned on. Not only that, it now took clear photos again! However, it didn’t make it through surgery entirely unscathed. The flash was fried, and the light meter was also DOA. But full-manual mode worked fine, and that’s all we use for photogrammetry shoots, so it’s business as usual over at Skull Theatre!

And there you have it.  If there’s any point at all to my rather long-winded story, I guess it’s that driving up a mountain is not the best way to get pancakes.

Anyways… I’ve been spending a good chunk of time this week looking at color in our game (or maybe it’s colour, since after all, we are Skull Theatre). We’re realizing the importance of a unified color scheme, and we’ve been exploring lots of possible options.  Our quest is far from complete, but I think that we’ve got a good sense of where we’re trying to end up.  I’ll leave you with this sunset shot taken in our engine that shows a bit of where we’re going color-wise.  Like I said, not done yet, but I think a step in the right direction.

Echo out.

About skulltheatre

Video Game Professional
Gallery | This entry was posted in Art, Digital Capture, Media. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Adventures in Game Development

  1. Seattle is an amazing place, I love it here. Just found out about you guys from someones post on /r/gamedev, as I am working on making my own game, and I must say your guys’ setup for taking pictures for 123d catch is pretty amazing, what works works right?

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