Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

The festival poster project

This is for a visual design assignment I did for university. The finished design is included. Couldn’t get that text how I wanted it.


Introduction

The second project was a poster for a festival, which stressed a family-friendly music and cultural experience where camping and food was available, and transport to the venue was also provided. This project was also to be created in Photoshop CC or earlier, at A4 size, 300 dpi with a CMYK colour format designed for printing. With this, I chose a psychedelic theme, which emphasised the happy and carefree nature of the festival.

Aims

As well as the tutorials for image manipulation provided by the university for this course, I used several I found on the internet, particularly for the creation of the poster which implemented Photoshop’s Smart Object feature (Blue Lightning TV 2014). The festival poster required a different approach. Here, there was an emphasis on the cultural and carnival nature of the festival, with a stress on it being a family-friendly event. I went with a psychedelic approach, framing a central character, a public domain photo of entertainer, the Big Bopper (Wikimedia Commons 2015), with bubbly text, tinted with a rainbow gradient. The top half of the poster listed the musical acts that would be in attendance where the bottom half listed the details of the festivals such as amenities, the cost and the location. The font used was Bell Bottom Laser, also sourced from www.dafont.com, which loaned the text an appropriate psychedelic feel.

Methods used

This was a lot more challenging to create as it involved smart objects, clipping and grouping layers.
• Selecting canvas size, dpi scale, CMYK colour space and bit depth.
• Changing the background to a background layer using the layer’s context tool.
• Applying a gradient theme to a layer.
• Adding a ripple effect border to that layer.
• Using the magic wand tool to separate the Big Bopper from its background, using the default settings of the tool. The magic wand tool was the most effective to use on this occasion as the Big Bopper stood out from the background.
• Importing the Big Bopper as a png file with alpha transparency so the background blends in with the poster image.
• Using the move tool and the transform tool to place and size the Big Bopper onto the poster image, as a new layer.
• Using the Desaturate function (Ctrl-Shift-U) to make the Big Bopper greyscale.
• Using the Solarize function with a setting of 3 to add a solarising effect to the Big Bopper.
• Applying a gradient to the Big Bopper using the layer’s context menu with gradient fill.
• Adding a clipping feature to the Big Bopper layer so the applied gradient and visual effects would apply to that layer and no other.
• Adding text using the Bell Bottom Laser font.
• Moving and resizing text with the move and transform tools.
• Converting each text layer to a raster using the rasterize layer context menu option. This was to enable effects to applied to the text.
• Selecting all of the text using Control-Click and added them to a new layer group.
• Using the gradient fill context menu option to add a gradient to the text.
• Using an outer glow context menu option to add a border to the text to properly separate it from the background layer, and aid in avoiding eye strain.
• Using the move tool to position the grouped text layer.
• Using the transform tool and warp tool to select the grouped text and apply a deformation to the grouped layer. By grouping all of the text, it made deforming the text around the Big Bopper easier.

The festival poster

The festival poster

The funky frog project

This is for a visual design assignment I did for university. The finished design is included.


Introduction

In assignment 1, we were required to create two screen layouts. The first of these was a web page mockup using either Funky Frog or Down Under Reef Holidays as the basis for the design. I chose to use Funky Frog as I felt it would be a more stimulating project to create. The mockup was to be designed in Adobe Photoshop CC or earlier, at 1024×768, at 96 dpi, and in 8-bit RGB colour format.

Aims

The aims for the web site mockup was to present an eye-catching site that demonstrated visual flair, ease of navigation, and to leave a visitor in no doubt as to what the theme of the site was. The colour most associated with frogs is green, and the mockup makes liberal use of the colour. The logo banner is is written in the Weltron Special Power font, which was obtained from the font repository www.dafont.com (2018). This font has a suitably “funky” appearance which does not trade style for legibility. The remainder of the site’s text is in the Verdana font, created by Microsoft for excellent screen legibility (Microsoft 2017). There is also an image of a frog, manipulated in Photoshop, that blends in well with the funky theme. The frog image was sourced from a wallpaper website (firsthdwallpapers.com 2013).

Methods used

Adobe Photoshop CS6 on Windows 7 was used. Withal, I found using Photoshop a challenge, as most of my image manipulation has been done with the open source GIMP program, Although the two share many common features, they are different enough in implementation to cause some confusion. When adding text to the image, I encountered a punctuation positioning bug that required searching for a solution, which I found (Digital Hippies 2013). In conclusion, the creation of these two graphics was certainly an educational process.

• Selecting canvas size, dpi, colour mode and bit depth from Photoshop’s new image dialogue.
• Working with layers, how to rename layers, hide them, duplicate them, and move them up and down the layer view.
• Changing the background to a background layer using the layer’s context tool.
• Using the blending mode context option, selecting gradient fill from the options, selecting gradient colours and orientation, placing a gradient onto a layer.
• Using the colour selection dialogue to change colours. Entering HTML hexadecimal codes for the colours, e.g #ffffff for white.
• Adding text using the text tool, changing font type, size, colour fill
• Positioning text using the move tool, resizing text using the transform tool, adding drop shadow effects to the text.
• Using the shape tool to draw rectangles, with both sharp and rounded edges. These were used for the navigation bar, the example drop down menu, and the black vertical dividers.
• Using the lasso tool to remove the frog image from its background. I attempted to use the quick selection and magic wand tools, but could not find the right tolerance to separate the image from the background effectively. I ensured that anti-aliasing was set to remove any jagged edges.
• Using the eraser tool to clean up the edges around the separated image of the frog, ensuring that anti-aliasing was set for this tool as well.
• Importing the frog image as a png file with alpha transparency, allowing it to blend in with the gradient theme of the background. Positioning the image using the move tool, and the transform tool to resize it to suit the overall web page.
• Using the shape tool to create the three panels: the main body panel, the sidebar panel and the sale panel at the upper right. Using the fill tool to give colour to these panels. Using the layer’s context menu to add drop shadows to each of the panels.
• Using the layer list to place the main body text panel underneath the drop down menu.
• Using copy and paste techniques to add illustrative graphics to the image, such as the Facebook image, the treble clef, and the mobile phone graphics.
• Using the move tool and the transform tool to position and size these graphics.
• Using the text tool to place other text, such as the phone number, the copyright, and the panel text. Using the move and transform tools to position and size the text.

funky frog

The funky frog website mockup

Life derailed…

Seems a bit drastic that title, but that’s what happened. Why? I refer readers to this post. I said there it would remain a hankering, nothing more. Well, bollocks to that. I promptly downloaded ESO (promptly meaning 30 odd hours on my ASDL2+ connection) and started playing it again.

For hours a day.

At the exclusion of practically everything else.

It isn’t the game’s fault. Of course it isn’t. It’s mine for putting meaningful life aside for the benefit of no thinking involved entertainment. I was keeping a daily activity log too, and getting a whole lot done re: editing stories and working on my game. I even started uni again (IT degree) and yet the ESO addiction kept going. I stopped playing it a few weeks ago, and things are slowly, yet surely getting back in order, scholastically and creatively. Even with my personal life.

I’m on the cusp of changing things there too. If you go back through this blog you’ll see a collection of false starts and ideas. Well, for a variety of reasons, I will no longer tolerate these half-assed beginnings and failed efforts. I can’t fail this time.

Life will no longer go off the rails. I’ll see, and you’ll see.

Altered Carbon – TV series

I watched this ten part series on Netflix recently, and it’s left me with mixed feelings. On one note, I hope the future depicted in this series (and the books) never comes to pass. On another note, I was impressed with the cast of the series, each of whom acquitted themselves excellently, particularly Joel Kinnaman as Kovacs and Martha Higareda as Ortega. Kudos to the ever-reliable James Purefoy too.

It’s gritty, well-made and produced, full of death, gore, nudity and the high-tech. No nice guys anywhere. It’s a neon-glitzy yet filthy future no decent person wants to find themselves in. Apart from the excellent fight scenes and gripping action, the series also has its lulls, and Episode 7, which dealt mainly in flashback with Kovacs’ time with Quellcrist on Harlan’s World dragged on. And that last episode? Talk about end with a whimper. I don’t know yet if Netflix made enough dough to put Broken Angels into production, but there’s hints the storyline of Kovacs continues.

The book Altered Carbon (which I reviewed here) isn’t fresh enough in my mind to know whether the series stuck to it or not. In the main, I think it did, but I do recall Kovacs being sleeved into the body of a woman at one stage, something the series omitted. The series kept the dystopian, hopeless for most future of the book intact though. Being able to save your consciousness to a device and then be implanted into a new body is something I hope never happens. It probably will, and that’ll be another slide down the self-destruction slope for humankind.

The story illustrates the philosophy that immortality is a bad thing and if it turns out like Altered Carbon, I thoroughly agree. If I hate to rate this series, I’d give it an 8/10. It’s very good, if you’re willing to put up with a few lulls and too many trips into flashback.

Flying the coop

It had to happen. My oldest daughter has left home, all very amicably. She’s commencing university in Toowoomba on 27 February, and is physically attending, as it’s a theatre degree. After a moderate amount of looking about, her and her boyfriend have found themselves a nice two bedroom unit in a leafy street. So that’s that. Toowoomba is a four hour drive from where I live, some of which is through winding, narrow roads, so the majority of our contact will be electronic.

It’s a bold step for her, but I have the fullest confidence she will adapt and thrive, to use an ecological term. I wish her well.

General software frustrations

I’ll preface this by saying I’ll overcome these dramas. Early days yet.

The biggest frustration is with Inkscape. It’s not an impenetrable program by any means, but I’m finding myself fighting with it to get anything productive done. There’s plenty of tutorials to make flat backgrounds (what I’m after with my game) but almost all of them are time-lapse videos that don’t explain any aspect of what the artist is doing.

One example of frustration is trying to draw a background. Have a look at this image (click for a bigger one):

Flat background vector art

Flat background vector art. Source: vecteezy.com

See that banded sky? Do you think I could make that using Inkscape today? Nope. I could make the bezier curves right, but when I tried to add a flood fill between the two curves, it did nothing. Nada. And everything I read said it could be done, and I was doing it the right way. Then I tried Krita with pretty much the same level of success. So here I am, with about 15-20 backgrounds I’d like to make for my first game, and I didn’t even get away from the starting line.

And, I’m learning Python – I got stuck today in a tutorial for that too, so that came to a screeching halt.

I will persevere though. I’m not giving up on the ambition to bring my stories to life, so I’ll reset and try again.

The Elder Scrolls hankering

The desire to play MMO games comes on in waves with me every six to nine months. After playing Lord of the Rings Online for a good while, my thoughts have turned to the Elder Scrolls universe again. As I’ve written elsewhere, probably over at Ulujain.org somewhere, I’m a great fan of the milieu, having been playing the Elder Scrolls series since Arena was released in 1994.

I’ve been working spasmodically on getting Arena to run on my Linux computer, but that’s a tale for some other time.

I keep tabs on what’s going on with the Elder Scrolls Online though I haven’t played it since May, 2017. I like what Zenimax have done and are doing to this game. From some very shaky and questionable beginnings, ESO has evolved into a quality product that is eminently playable, and eminently fun.

But…

It’s a timesink. It is not difficult to lose yourself in it for 12-15 hours a day. 12-15 hours one will never have back. It’s arguable that if you had fun, and you feel the better for it, then it was time well invested. But I have my sights on getting a lot done this year and anything that will potentially derail these ambitions is, quite frankly, toxic.

So, I’m going to let ESO and its allures remain a fond memory. Forever? No, I can never say never to going back, but not any time soon. Anyway, here’s Himalia.

My Bosmer Dragonknight Himalia

My Bosmer Dragonknight Himalia

A new game arises

One of the things I’ve had in the back of my mind to do for some time is make a video game. While it’s a daunting task for one person to do, it’s been done, and many times done successfully. Encouraged (and emboldened) I have set about getting things together to bring this game into fruition. I’m going to be reticent with details such as the game name, but it’ll be a “visual novel” set in the world of Aesedra, dealing with the life and memories of one of its long-dead rulers.

A few details (major updates 5/2/2018):

  • I’ve gone with ren.py
  • It will be a visual novel, complete with books, scrolls and plaques that the player can read.
  • There will be no combat or inventory
  • It will feature forests, streams, ponds, a pool, a large manor house, a basement, an attic, a crypt and a rotunda. This is at the least. I may even add more.
  • It will feature both music and ambient sounds/effects (Foley).
  • I hope to make it cross-platform, though I have zero idea how games work on Macs.
  • I’d like to release it on Steam and offer achievements and trading cards.

As far as knowledge goes, I’m starting at near zero. I am no artist or graphical designer, I am no musician, I am no programmer. What I can do is write a story – look around this site for evidence – and I have the self-belief that I can learn the skills necessary to bring this game to life. I don’t know how long it’ll take to make – a year, two years, I don’t know.

The materials I believe I’ll need to make this game. Check means I have it already:

  • ren.py – check. Its a free download. What powers the game.
  • Blender – check. It’s a free download. To create 3D structures and other assets.
  • GIMP – check. It’s a free download. To draw textures, colour materials and structures. Scrolls, books, plaques, gravestones, etc.
  • ProjectLibre – check. It’s a free download. This tool will be used to manage the game project.
  • Freeplane – check. It’s a free download. This is a Java-based mind-mapping app which will let me visually lay out the game.
  • Audacity – check. It’s a free download. This program is for editing sound files and Foley, as well as the voice-overs.
  • Inkscape – check. Free as well, for the backgrounds and some character art.

While storyboarding software would be nice, I can do this stuff in a word processor or text editor, or even Freeplane which will do the job visually. Mind-mapping tools are marvellous for laying out things like timelines, brainstorming etc.

The design computer is my gaming rig:

  • Windows 7 64-bit
  • Intel i5 6600
  • 8 Gb x 2150 DDR4 RAM (I have another 8Gb I need to fit).
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD (C: drive)
  • Toshiba 2TB “spin” drive (D: drive)
  • Asus Strix AMD 390x video card – 8GB VRAM

My linux computer – which I’m writing this on, is an old AMD K6 with an Nvidia GT210 in it. NOT a gaming computer! What it can do is run the Java-based apps such as ProjectLibre and Freeplane, and maybe some of the audio editing. It’s easy enough to move files between the two computers – that’s not an issue.

So where am I at with the game? I have a very rough map of the “game world” drawn – the actual area the player can explore. Just the exterior so far. I also know what the story will be like as I’ve touched on it in a couple of stories I’ve written. My next steps are to watch tutorials on UE4 to see how it works and what can be done with it. I’m already investigating programming (Javascript) so I’m on the way from that angle too.

Stay tuned. I will have more in the future to present!

🌞

Statistics don’t prove anything

Rather a broad, all-encompassing thing to state, right?

Well, it’s true. Statistics don’t prove anything. Even the most rigorously undertaken statistical tests can only strongly suggest whatever outcome the hypothesis the tester set out to examine.  Practically every properly conducted statistical test is built around a confidence level.  That’s to say that there is a % chance that the expected outcome may be incorrect, or the obverse of that, what you’re expected to be incorrect turns out otherwise.

I’m not going to go into type 1 or type 2 errors but in science, most confidence levels for tests are set at 95%. So, there is a 5% chance that data collected falls outside of the test’s purview. Five percent is a significant figure, when all things are weighed up. Even if the confidence level was set at 99%, there still a 1% chance of an anomaly. Even in things one would consider dead certainties.

So, while lawyers may be able to prove things, statistics can’t – and it’s not their task to. They can only strongly suggest.

 

Ulujain.org redesign

I won’t hide it – I strongly dislike the word “ulujain“. It was a place on a map I drew up for a story that no longer exists, crafted probably in the early 90s. Back then, I took a fancy to the word and used it for a variety of things: video game characters (ugh!), user names on forums (equally ugh!) and, alas, a domain name I registered nearly seventeen years ago, after using it as an account name on various ISP’s token web-spaces (i.e. bogus.url/~ulujain). Well, o frabjous day, I’m of no mind to just let it lapse. Sentimental value? That’d have to be it, and after using it for mostly miscellaneous purposes, I’ve finally decided to put it to some artistic and worthwhile use.

Firstly, it will be a testbed for my experiments with the W3.CSS framework. Secondly, as mentioned, I’ll be devoting some of my more artistic passions there, essentially photography. This site will remain the outlet of my written creative work.

So I’m sorry Mr. Google et al, for the numerous 404s you’re about to get, but that’s the price of progress, and putting factual mediocrity into the digital graveyard.

Ulujain.org

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