Saturday, March 25, 2017

Emoticons and the Aldi experience !

In some respects, I am happy to wave goodbye to March. Although, Mrs. A and I celebrated our birthdays, which were nice days for us both. πŸ˜ƒ The weather is changing with warmer temperatures, which is most welcome. Also, now that Spring is with us, the clocks go forward one hour for daylight savings. So, it will be lighter in the mornings and evenings as well! πŸ˜„

Next month with a time off over the Easter period, I hope to continue with my game engine in GameMaker Studio 2. This will include a bit of basic ground work on another shoot'em up game, which as it stands may take some time to produce, as it will only be a part-time project with whatever time I have to work on it. I also want to design some more with Simbrix and Qixels, they are fun to use. I quite like designing retro game characters with them. πŸ˜‰

Lego :: ( MOCs | speed builds )
Everyday without realising it, we use Emoticons to express ourselves through Social Media and via Text messages. I just had to have a go at designing some myself and even though there maybe a tongue-in-cheek element to one of them, I thought they came out okay. The Smiley can easily be modified into other expressions, leaving anything up to the imagination. πŸ˜‰

The Aldi Experience ::
I had known about Aldi moving into the area near Aris HQ since late 2016. My direct thoughts were, that this could only be a good thing. Upon my first shop a few weeks ago, when they opened in early March, was, WOW! 😊 Their stock not only carrries the essential everyday items, but more and at a much more affordable prices. I would also, personally say, that the quality is far greater without even thinking about it. Our regular weekly shops are now at Aldi with noticeable savings.
You also can't help notice prices going up at other Supermarkets on everyday items, by a few pence is to be expected. But in some cases putting an extra 25 pence is a bit unfair! To be honest, companies may rely on how they source certain products and don't really have any choice to raise prices. I have a fear that businesses and companies may well take advantage of the current decision of the U.K. leaving the E.U. ( Brexit ). I am happy to go with the flow of the process, however I wouldn't be too pleased if everything backfires and through panic, the cost of everything rockets! 😑

Stock Markets and the value of currencies can be so delicate at times, but it's the reaction to this that causes uncertainty. For several years Mrs. A and I have rented an apartment. To own a house is more of a distant dream with prices being far from affordable. Even though thousands of homes are being built throughout the U.K., it's a little too late. Whilst some landlords and larger housing associations with an ample portfolio of properties are arrogant enough to keep increasing the rent year by year squeezing out the last pennies from the poor tenant. Living in the south of England is known to be expensive! But I think since lack of affordable homes have been made available, renting has been the only solution. I do believe though, that sometime in the future, however near it maybe, there will be crash in the rental market. When this happens, it will be because no one will able to afford to rent at all! The only way this could be resolved, is where private or market rent landlords would be capped at what they can charge a tenant per month for an apartment, house or even room. The cost of renting per month is in some cases, the same as a mortgage payment. Even though there is a roof over our heads, renting SUCKS! πŸ˜’

And finally ...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bruce Lee and Hearts

It's been a relatively quiet month with not much going on. I had planned on doing a lot more creative projects, but decided to stretch out a few for April ( Easter ). This also includes starting another gamedev project which will inevitably be released and added to the game engine I am working on. Mrs. A and I did design a couple of hearts with Qixels for Valentine's day, these ended up as Badges and resembled retro life hearts. 😍
Lego :: ( MOCs | speed builds )
Bruce Lee was one of only a few games I ever completed on my Commodore 64 back in the 1980's, second to Commando. I think this build is pretty faithful to the original Sprite and the added depth with slight articulation makes it look great! 😊
There is one more arcade mini build with flat plates to come for March and then I may switch to using both, flat and regular bricks. Again, in keeping to a mini build state. Using a mix of bricks will help bulk up the design and would help if I don't have enough flat pieces.

Crowdfunding ::
Over the next few months, there should be the hopeful completion of some Kickstarter projects I funded. As an estimated delivery date approaches each project, there is always the wonder if it will exceed that date. Understandably, in some cases it will, as a lot of projects require time in and around the person or teams life. Currently waiting patiently for : The Mastertronic Archives, Project Sidologie and Reformation.

And finally ...

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Watch out for the Fog and also Dinosaurs !

If you have ever seen the original film, " The Fog " by John Carpenter, you will know it was an erry, creepy and somewhat scary horror movie. Oxfordshire has been experiencing some pretty dense Fog during this month and despite there not being Pirates with Cutlesses, driving in these conditions has been quite an experience. πŸ˜†
Lego :: ( MOCs | speed builds )
I have decided to start a series of mini builds based on video game arcade favourites, Arcade Mini's. This will of course be semi-regular with how to build videos made available whenever possible. You will notice that the format and style has changed a bit with more editing and a normal paced building stance. I do plan to continue doing speed builds, so keep a look out via this blog or my YouTube channel.
Space Invader is the first Arcade Mini and although it hasn't any articulation, it looks pretty cute and looks smart on it's stand. You will also notice that it mainly contains flat bricks with a layered build. I think it is easier to understand this way. πŸ˜‰
Pac-Man following up as a second to the start of the Arcade Mini series, is a faithful build to the earlier design from 2015 using only flat bricks again. You might notice a pattern of brick types! 😊

Lego :: ( Creator 31058 Mighty Dinosaurs )
When I first saw the preview photos of this set, I was really impressed and couldn't wait for it's release. The T-Rex, Stegosaurus and Pterodactyl are good representations of the Dinosaurs. At the moment, I prefer the T-Rex and found the build very interesting. With the right coloured bricks you could make an interesting build of Godzilla, even with a few modifications. 😊
Mobile Phone :: ( Huwaei P9 Lite )
Although, I did like my Doogee X6 Pro, I began for find it a bit clunky in places. For around £65 GBP back in June 2016, it served me well. The main one thing that I couldn't get along with was the delay whilst using the touchscreen. Sometimes, I had to tap or use the required gestures repeatedly. At first I thought it might have been the screen protector. So, I removed this. For a while this was okay, but then the responsiveness lessened again. I am guessing that the screen calibration might have been slightly off! πŸ˜– The device was never overloaded with Apps and I ran a good Battery Doctor and Memory Saver ( Clean Master ).
After using the P9 Lite for only a few days, the feel and use of the mobile phone is miles better. A worthy choice from Vodafone. Very happy! πŸ˜€

And finally ...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hello Alexa, Qixels, Simbrix and Sleep

As I type this, it's cold and frosty outside, but warm inside at Aris HQ. I had to take a lot of cardboard boxes to the recycle area, thankfully, it's within the surrounding car park area. I think I was lucky, as there appeared to be enough space to put everything in one bin and spread it out over several. I hurriedly returned back inside to the warmth where a Suchard Hot Chocolate could be made in record time via our Bosch Tassimo! 😁

Christmas Present Haul 2016 ::
This years Christmas Present haul was a small, but bountiful one with a wonderful surprise of the Amazon Echo present from Mrs. A's brother, John. 😊
Alexa, the host speaker for Amazon Echo, can be instructed to do a variety of things, like play your favourite music and radio stations, tell the time, play a news broadcast and she can answer many questions. However, you must try and phrase some questions correctly otherwise she won't understand. There are also commands to control lighting and various other things, but this would depend on compatibility the products and what your home network is. Overall, a very pleasing array of presents my family! Thank you! 😁

Lego :: ( MOC | speed build )
I managed to design two models for December, again using basic Lego bricks. Still my favourite to this day! πŸ˜ƒ One has a surprise addition, even though it's not technically Lego.
If those can remember my Christmas Tree and Santa builds from December 2015, this Tree is quite different, I particulary like the added orange transparent 1x1 flat bricks. It would have been nice to have multicoloured ones, but all the same, it adds a little bit of depth to the design.
I really like this Snowman and simply adore the additional Crocheted Scarf that Mrs. A did for me. It certainly adds an element of cuteness to it. I am wondering now if we will be getting any Snow around Oxfordshire in the latter 2016 or early 2017?

Lego :: ( #015 Lego Ideas / 21306 - Yellow Submarine )
Each year, I try and purchase some Lego for a Christmas Day build. For 2016, I bought the Beatles - Yellow Submarine set.

I really enjoyed the build, which had some interesting techniques and wonderful array of coloured bricks. I also managed to get hold of the Blu-Ray version of the Beatles - Yellow Submarine which is an awesome pairing with this Lego set. Love it! 😊

Amazon Echo ( Alexa ) ::
I briefly mentioned the Amazon Echo earlier and asked her an interesting question, of which the answer was correct and to the point.

Firstly, mentioning her name, Alexa and then the question or instruction will deliver the answer or act on the command. Of course, asking trivial questions could be done using Google, but by simply calling her name in a normal tone to get an answer without the need of being near a computer is pure genius!

GameDev :: ( GameMaker Studio 2 )
Well, I started to code / design a game engine. It is being grouped into Sprites, Objects and Rooms. Plus, any other elements like generic sound effects. The process is really interesting and will also prove to be a time saver in the end.
I have an idea and plan to code a shoot-em up during 2017. It will use elements of the game engine until near the end. Hopefully, time will permit and I will have something for show and tell, even if it is an early build or beta. For the time being, it will be PC based only and maybe at a later date it will be ported to Android.

Puzzle Design Kits :: ( Simbrix and Qixels )
Towards the week up to Christmas, I purchased two art / puzzle design kits. Here is a little insight into each kit and I what designed with them.
Simbrix ::
First up, I tested Simbrix. This has a slight puzzle element in which the way you link and place each Simbrix. Now heat, glue or water is required. You can still be creative as every design, definitely promotes imagination.
I puchased Simbrix from Amazon, which was at the time £15 GBP. You can get different sized sets, each one will have a greater amount of Simbrix. In no time at all, you'll be designing straight from imagination or inspired from a character or object around you.
Apart from the initial test models, of : 1-UP, Manic Miner, Pac-Man and an extra life Heart. I thought I'd have a go at designing Thing on a Spring from the 1985 Commodore 64 video game of the same name by Gremlin Graphics ( Gremlin ). You can't help but adore the cuteness of it! πŸ’–

Qixels ::
The approach to Qixels is somewhat similar to Hama Beads. However, you use water to fuse them together rather than heat from an Iron. I purchased Qixels from Argos in the UK for £14.99 GBP, they were out of stock from Amazon with only resellers stocking them for somewhat higher prices.
Again, as a test character design, I used Thing on a Spring. With the little spray bottle provided, you spray your design whilst on the board with plastic template 25 times at approx (1.5 inches / 4 cm) away from the top and leave to dry for 30 minutes or longer, ensuring all Qixel cubes are covered in water. Afterwards, the instructions advise to gently shake excess water and leave on a flat surface. Leaving it to dry for longer and spraying the back of the design if breaks away, would probably be better.
The end result, even after leaving the design to dry over night wasn't too bad. However, when I literally gently peeled poor Thing on a Spring off the plastic template, it was somewhat curved with the texture of rubber. So, I had to leave it under a heavy weight, like a book, to flatten it out. There also appears to be scent of Vinegar given off, this is apparent when handling and even after a final design is finished. The instructions clearly state to wash your hands after handling the Qixels. The design appears to be fairly clean, leaving some slight mess over surface. So, as an experiment, I used an anti-bacterial wipe and this cleaned everything up. It is then better to leave your design to further dry. This may increase the dry time, but it's worth it to give a cleaner surface. Overall, quite a pleasing product. After a bit of practise each and ever process of design will get better and better! πŸ˜ƒ

Sleep ::
One of the things I most look forward to when having time off, is to catch up with or maintain a better sleep pattern. During a typical working week, I usually try and have a short sleep after work, only to sleep in at the weekends. Also, having a nap ( sleep ) at the weekend for an hour or two helps recharge during the day, typically in the afternoon. Even though a human isn't some sort of Android-Robot-Humanoid-Synthetic that requires next to no sleep, it really does help. πŸ’€

And finally ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Another Studio, Tassimo and let's go Turkey !

I have appreciated the last few weeks of November by looking forward to some vacation time, usually to help, be with Mrs. A more and celebrate Thanksgiving, but to also get into the pre-festive mood. So, to start, up went the tree and mutter amongst yourselves as December hasn't even arrived yet! :)
We also went food shopping and got some of our food and drink for the holiday period and into the new year. The Nectar points awarded by Sainsbury's on every food shop and petrol purchase helped over the last few months. So, all we need to do is just get the everyday essentials now and we're set.

Lego :: ( MOC | speed build )
Just the one speed build this month, but I should have two suitably themed and ready for December. I thought I would go with the Turkey theme and even though the colour of bricks shows a more well cooked design, it's what I had amongst my existing collection. So, enjoy! :) 

GameDev :: ( GameMaker Studio 2 )
It has been quite a fun and overwhelming month with regards gamedev. I managed to get a beta testing slot for GameMaker Studio 2, which at first, limited slots were only made available, until finally it was open to all. Shortly after this, there was an offer to purchase via an upgrade from GameMaker Studio 1.4 at a introductory price, this worked out to be just under £58 GBP ( inc. VAT ).  The added beauty, is that you will still be able to use 1.4 and 2.0 together. So far, I have been able to import 1.4 projects that have worked 100%. Compatibility scripts are created to make the conversion process even smoother and are easily accessible. I tried UP, a more simpler and Bugsy Reloaded, a more complex project, both worked without a hitch.
The remainder of my current projects in GameMaker Studio 1.4 for Android have been updated with a LibPNG patch which fixed vulnerability issue, even though the apps available on the Google Play Store sat there for around two years without any issues or reports.

I started to do a game engine for GameMaker Studio 2 and this will contain all the elements for shoot'em ups, platformers, puzzle games and other genres. Sprites, Objects and Rooms will be grouped into a specific genre, so when it comes to developing another game or project, I can just copy and paste code. Over the past few years, I have gradually used drag and drop commands less with GameMaker. It is far simplier and quicker to use GML code, but also easier to tweak. The productivity rate is increased using programs like GameMaker and the likes of Unity, Construct and Clickteam Fusion. Infact, coding in any lauguage is good and no matter what you code, bugs will always deliver problems and solutions! :)

App Development :: ( JMBSoft )
A fellow developer and retro gaming friend, Jason has just released a couple of Android apps via the Google Play Store. Bouncing Balls and Very Simple Notes are great first time apps. They are well worth an install and look at. See if you can work up to 300 bouncing balls or assist yourselves with very simple notes.
Bosch Tassimo Vivy ::
Even before the Black Friday, but let's start Thursday or even before deals started. I decided to buy a Tassimo Vivy from Amazon UK for only £33 GBP. Of course, some beverage pods were purchased as I well and the only downside is, that you don't get any free samples to get started with. That aside, it is quicker than boiling a Kettle at only 1300 watt, against some using upto 2000 watt.
 And finally ...


Saturday, October 29, 2016

More Clicking, Bricking and Barriers !

Here's October again and those autumn leaves have been doing themselves proud falling from the trees everso gracefully at times. The gentle winds that pick them up off the floor are also a pleasant to see! If you haven't of guessed it, I quite like autumn, especially when it has just left summer!

I managed to get a few things working this month and a number of projects completed. It's always nice to move onto newer projects, especially when some haven't seemed to move much or might have appeared to be abandoned.

Lego :: ( MOC | speed build ) 
This month we have a nice bunch of spOOky speed builds for you. They are all based around Halloween I guess, but could well suit any time where you want a horror based theme. There is something for everyone! :)

I really like this Skull and could imagine the rest of it's Skeleton made out of Lego. I can't help thinking of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger though! :)
Hey! Frankie! The first thing I thought about after designing this was, the Muppets! Perhaps a character from Sesame Street even? Just check out those buldging eyes! ;)
I designed this build several months ago, I think around April. It has quite a charm about it with the 2D / 3D cross over. I need to go and watch It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown again! :)
So, let's end the four speed builds with a Ghost! You'll need to imagine it flying right with it's cape or sheet flapping around in flight! :)

GameDev :: ( Clickteam Fusion 2.5 )
I was quite fortunate to stumble across a Humble Bundle deal this month and score with Clickteam Fusion 2.5 Developer, plus extras. A majority of the downloads for this were via Steam. I have had a play around and like what I've seen so far. The interface will take a while to get used to, but the engine ( software ) behind this, is said to be quite powerful.
I hope to design a working, one level version of Bugsy Reloaded. I have started with the 'Catch the Fruit'  tutorial, just like when I started with the basic platformer tutorial in Game Maker back in 2004. In doing this I will get used to the interface and workings of Clickteam Fusion 2.5 Developer. Ironically, one of the key developers for the software is none other than FranΓ§ois Lionet who brought us, AMOS and STOS in the 1990's, plus many software titles during the 1980's.
After I have completed the Bugsy Reloaded project, I want to work on another mini-project and then progress from there. As I progress, I will ofcourse blog my workings! :)

GameDev :: ( Barriers )
It was to be expected really, I actually finished Barriers this month and made it publically available on Android and PC. From August until October, I actually surprised myself by the progress and doing little bitesized tasks each week, it made a difference.
I eventually left out the Bluetooth controller option, as explained last month. It was frustrating me a little, so perhaps I can revisit this at a later date with a fresh and new idea. For a project that was started two years ago and then put on hold, I am quite proud of what I have achieved.

You can download Barriers on Android for *FREE* from the Google Play and on PC from my Alex Aris Games website.

The Immersion Heater ::
Steadily, over the last few years. The electricity bill at Aris HQ has increased! At first, you begin to think that too many appliances are being used at once or some how we are being wired into another home, powering that too! By chance, a colleague at work was discussing with me about Ecomony 7 heating. As the conversation progressed, a revelation transpired ...
Ever since I can remember, the top power switch on photo left, was turned on and bottom one was turned off. Unbeknown to me, the top switch is ( always on heated water ) and the bottom switch is ( heated via Ecomony 7 ). Ofcourse everytime you turned on the hot water tap, it would forever check or heat the water. It is an easy mistake to make and with the switches not being clearly labelled, any person is bound to experience this. So, after clarifiying the situation with Scottish Southern Electric ( SSE ) it was confirmed that the bottom switch is for Ecomony 7 and the top switch ( booster - only use when necessary ) should be turned off. There should be a significant difference with future bills, which is definitely a good thing. You'll also be pleased to know the switches are now labelled, something the landlord should have done in the first place or at least documented clearly through documentation! And so, we move on! :)

And finally ...

Saturday, September 24, 2016

We have Bananas, but no Internet !

It's been an action packed month all around with delays, progress and some really crazy goings on with the weather. However, with patience and perserverance everthing turned out alright in the end! :)
Even though it was early in the morning during my commute to work, the above video only captures a small part of the reality in terms of the driving conditions. I have never experienced anything like it in my life, heavy snow, but rain?

Lego :: ( MOC | speed build )
For some time, I had been wanting to design a star of some sort and could well of used yellow coloured bricks, but I decided to go with an orange / peach colour. As you may have also noticed, it has my signature bulging cartoon eyes, just to make it more fun looking! :)
We have Bananas, but no Internet !
Several years ago, we ( Mrs. A and I ) used to have our groceries delivered by a well known supermarket and in one of the quantity boxes for our online list, it was believed that only six singular Bananas or a bunch was chosen. How wrong we were?
This might sound a little confusing, but imagine if you had all the Bananas you could eat and then suddenly one day there was none? Well, not for a while anyway!
In a not so similar true story, I decided to get a better deal during September with my Landline Phone and Broadband Internet.  I chose to transfer my service to EE, a well known telecommunications company under the BT group and with whom we were currently subscribed too ( BT that is ). Everything was going really well, the new Broadband Wireless Modem arrived in good time before the switch over date and then it came to the day! The Landline was transferred correctly, but there was an error with the Broadband switch over, probably at the local exchange or nearest cabinet. During this time, EE customer service team were excellent, but it seemed that BT had to play a part in remedying the technical situation.
The process took about one week to be resolved and before an estimated day and time. I can only descripe this as *very* frustrating, not exactly a first world problem, I know! It was like going cold Turkey without having full access to the Internet with only a small data plan to go by via Vodafone to go by. ( EE even offered additional data if we were on their network, alas, our Vodafone contract expires in March 2017 ). I have no idea why it took so long, a couple of days wait would have been acceptable, but hey! It's working now with fast Fibre Broadband! :) EE also, discounted my overall connection fee, Modem delivery and first month payment. The other additional bonus, was BT not charging me an exit fee for leaving them and having a small, but welcoming £5 credit refund. Nice! :)
Despite the rare delay occurance, it was well worth the change and despite all the frustration and I'll mention it again, the EE customer service team were excellent, patient and understanding about my experience and situation. Thank you! :)

GameDev :: ( Barriers )
I have made a bit more progress with the game this month, mostly through tweaking and giving the main player ship a make over. The sound levels having been adjusted and since the video below was recorded there have been changes to a few sound effects and behaviours to the gameplay.
Barriers works really well on Android and the on screen Joystick control feels better than just holding a static area of the screen. The only routine I couldn't get to work fully, was with a Bluetooth controller. For some unknown reason, it conflicted with the on screen controls. So, it was either or just one option. Perhaps at a later date, I might be able to work out how to incorporate both routines. I don't know how many people would use a controller, but at least it would be nice to have another method of playing. The menu will remain touch screen for Android and Mouse control for PC. Some Laptops and PC's have touch screen technology, so with the keyboard controls as well, it will make the menu system a bit more interactive.

Perhaps for next month or November we may see a release or date for everyone to play and see! :)

And finally ...