World 1-1 released, starring me.

Well, it’s official. The new documentary about the rise and fall of Atari in the eighties is now available here:

Thanks to Daryl and Jeanette for making a great movie.  I’m not really starring in the movie, but you’ll see me making a few comments here and there.  If you follow the link you can see the trailer for free, and buy or rent the movie for just a few quarters.

Back in the eighties I played a whole lot of arcade games, and averaged $10.00 in quarters a day.  When I joined Atari in 1982, even though I had access to tons of free games at work, I continued going to the real arcades and playing the games the way they were meant to be played:  with my hard-earned cash.

The world sure has changed since then…

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Blender 3D Basics, second edition

The second edition of Gordon Fisher’s Blender book is now available. I reviewed the first edition back in 2012 on this blog. I liked it back then and I really like it even better now.

The second edition is updated for Blender 2.7 and the structure of the book hasn’t changed. You get the same chapters, but there are fifty more pages of additional content throughout. This is still my favorite Blender intro book. It guides you through learning the basics step by step, preceded by a very nice introduction to the history and principles of animation.

Blender hasn’t changed all that much in the past few years, at least from the perspective of a beginner. The interface underwent a radical redesign some years earlier with the introduction of Blender 2.5, The recent improvements are more along the lines of added features and fixes.

If you already worked through the first edition of the book you may not feel the need to get the second edition, but if it’s all brand new for you this second edition is a great way to get your feet wet with Blender.

The book is available at the Packt website here:

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Packt Bonanza featuring great Game Development books

There’s less than a week left in Packt’s eBook Bonanza promotion. Every book is for sale for a mere $5.00 US. Check it our here:
You can get the new version of Gordon Fisher’s great Blender book as part of this campaign, plus lots of other great bargains.  I reviewed the first edition a couple of years ago, and the new edition looks even bigger and better. Also please take a look in the game development and the creative books sections for many other interesting titles.

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Happy New Year

Wow, it’s now 2015. Just a quick post to wish everyone a Happy New Year with lots of game goodness coming your way.

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Gubble Development starting yet again

It’s been a while.  Gubble was first developed in  1996 and 1997, then again in 2006 – 2007, then the mobile versions came in about 2010, more or less.  After almost 20 years, it’s definitely time to overhaul Gubble in a major way, so here’s the plan.

I’m going to use Unity to rewrite the entire game as well as Gubedit, the level editor.  All the 3D models are getting remade in Blender.  The game itself will be the same, at least in classic mode.  The remake mode will be incredibly different, mainly because the old-style game is very much in need of a modern kick in pod.  The audio is really the only thing that’ll be untouched except the music files will be high-quality MP3’s instead of MIDI files.

Development Screenshot G15 001

Unity G15 001


On occasion I’ll be posting screenshots in this blog and write about my trials and tribulations.  Above is the very first screenshot.  It’s basically the same thing I made when I first developed Crystal Castles at Atari in the spring of 1982.  Wow, that was 32 years ago!

It’s a bit different now, but ultimately it amounts to the same thing.  Build a world, make it interactive, add some scoring to make it into a game, then play it a lot to find out if it’s fun.


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Review of Joe Larson’s “3D Printing Blueprints”

If you’re like me, you have an interest in 3D printing but haven’t gotten around to actually geeting your hands dirty and creating a 3D print yourself.  Joe Larson’s “3D Printing Blueprints” is a great way to get started. The book is available at Packt here. You don’t even need to own a 3D printer, just a computer with the free, open source Blender installed, and you’re ready to go.

Blender can be a daunting piece of software and it does take some time to get used to its quirky interface. Fortunately Joe Larson provides a gentle introduction to newbies so you can get started right away. The book is written in the “blueprints” style where each chapter is a 3D print project ranging from beginner to advanced, from a mug to a teddy bear figurine.

Once your 3D model is created and ready for printing you can send it to one of the many service companies for printing, or you can print it yourself if you own a 3D printer. The cost of making small prints really depends on the size of the print and the materials used in printing, but you can get started for under $2 if you shop around.  As they used to say (I’m showing my age here) your milage may vary.

I do have an ulterior motive in reviewing this book. My company is in the midst of developing the next Gubble game, and as it so happens we’re using Blender for all of our 3D modeling. So it’s only natural that I’d want to take some of the Gubble 3D models from Gubble and try to print them with a 3D printer.

The most important part of the book for beginners like me is a very clear and well-illustrated section on how 3D printing works and what it can and can’t do. You’ll have to read the first chapter yourself for all the details, but basically, to quote the book from page 8: “When designing for supportless printing the rules are simple: Y prints, H prints okay, T does not print well.” The basic reason for this is this: 3D prints are deposited from the ground up, so you can’t just create something floating in space and expect it to stay there.
Armed with this new-found knowledge I selected the gear from the Gubble character models and decided to use it as a first test. Amazingly, all I had to do is take the 3D blender model, scale it up by a sufficiently large amount, and then export it to .stl format.

Then came the fun part.  I found a local and inexpensive printer using All I had to do is upload the stl file and I instantly got dozens of price quotes, some of them quite reasonable. Here is a photo of the result:

Picture of me holding the gear

3D Print in white plastic of Gubble Gear, no red center



As you can see, it’s pretty basic, just one color, and small. But it’s a great start and quite a fun experience to see my very own creation from 1996 printed in real plastic some seventeen years later.

The blueprint chapters in the book are very well written and are easy to follow.  Just do the steps and pretty soon you’ll have a 3d model ready for printing. Then, you can get creative and make your own modifications very easily in Blender.

The Face Illusion Vase in chapter 3 is particularly fun.  You can take a photo of yourself or a loved one and create an ordinary looking vase.  But, it’s far from ordinary because if you look carefully at the vase from the side you’ll recognize the outline of the face baked into the shape. This chapter teaches how to use a reference image to model a unique 3D mesh, ideal for 3D printing.

“3D Printing Blueprints” is a great all-around introduction to 3D printing and serves both as a series of tutorials for creating your own 3D prints and as a useful reference to have on hand for your future 3D printing projects.

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Gubble 3D printing

I just got a chance to review a new book about 3D printing using Blender by Joe Larson: 3D Printing Blueprints . This got me to thinking…

It sure would be fun to make some 3D prints of Gubble characters. Gubble D Gleep himself is a real challenge with his complicated 3D geometry, but the gears or the robots would make a great experiment. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. The next step will be to make 3D-printable versions of the meshes in Blender and printing them.

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This blog has been in limbo for too long. Time to for a revival.
Look for some interesting posts in the near future — Franz

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Review of Gordon Fisher’s “Blender 3D basics”

So I thought I knew Blender pretty well, with some gaps, of course. Then I got a chance to review Gordon Fisher’s “Blender 3D Basics: The complete novice’s guide to 3D modeling and animation”. In summary, this is a great book and definitely lives up to the billing as the best starter guide for complete newcomers to 3D modeling and animation. Having seen quite a few Blender books, video tutorials, and written documentation, I’d have to say that working through this book is the best first step before going on to other more advanced topics.

I’ll even go further and recommend this book to somewhat more experienced Blender users such as myself. Blender isn’t exactly easy to learn on your own, so this book is a great way to tackle the initial learning curve.

As an indie game developer, programmer, artist and musician, this book is a great resource both for improving my Blender skills and also for learning some great things about 3D graphics and animation.

Blender’s user interface isn’t exactly standard. It’s famous for driving people nuts and stumping newcomers. Version 2.6 is a vast improvement over the earlier 2.4 versions, but it’s still a bit wonky. On the other hand, the user interface is very keyboard oriented, which is just how I like it. There’s just the slight problem of learning the keys and enough of the basics to learn the rest on your own.

This isn’t some cursory review. I actually worked through the first 330 pages of this 430 page book. I plan to work through the rest in the coming weeks, but I thought that I’d share my impressions so far.

The step-by-step approach of the book is great. Just follow the steps and slowly but surely you’ll learn how to use Blender. Anyone can do it. There’s no artistic talent required, just an eye for detail. The downside of this way of learning is that if you happen to skip a step or do something slightly differently you might find yourself looking at something very different from the screenshots a few steps later. Never fear, the author did a really great job providing a whole bunch of .blend files to load to get you back on track.

The whole experience of working through the steps was truly educational for me, as I’m sure it will be for you as well. My only real criticism is that on occasion I felt that I would have liked an explanation of the steps as I was doing them rather than in the “What just happened” section after completing the section.

Technically, this book is pretty good, though it’s not perfect. There are a few typos and, strangely, the occasional confusion of RMB and LMB (right mouse button and left mouse button). In Blender you select layers with LMB, but the book instructs you to use the RMB I a few places. Not a big deal, really. Also, a few of the screen shots don’t match exactly what I was seeing when working through the steps, but over 95% of the time they were right on. In all cases I was able to work through the steps and follow along.

In conclusion, this is a great book and definitely worth you while if you’re interested in learning the basics of Blender 2.63, 3D modeling, and a little bit of animation.

P.S.  Here is a link to the book at Packt Publishing:



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GDC 2012

Well, after a long break I’m back exploring the game industry. As always, GDC is really great. I’ve got several projects swirling around in my head, so I can’t wait to get back to my computer and start developing.

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