Regard All Phenomena As Dreams


Vanguard Saga of Heroes: In beta now

V a n g u a r d - Saga Of Heroes

I've been playing the beta for the upcoming MMO Vanguard, Saga of Heroes.  It's claim to fame is that it's being created by several people who were behind the original Everquest, and is billiing itself as an MMO that will emphasize grouping.  They want Vanguard to have a sense of challenge (without being too frustrating, of course...), and are looking to slow things down a bit from the rollercoaster pace of MMOs like WoW and EQ2 (as it is now). 

In addition to the standard adventuring and crafting as ways to advance, it will add 'diplomacy' as an all new track to advance along.  This involves a mini-card-game of sorts that is quite fun.  I've only done the first couple diplomacy-related quests, but am enjoying it so far.  It does look to be a good change of pace and significantly different from adventuring or crafting.

The graphics are a mixed bag, with some awkward models and textures here and there, but also some gorgeous landscapes and city design.  From what other beta players have told me, the world is absolutely enormous too.  I've only explored a couple small areas so far, so can't directly vouch for that, but a large world is a big plus for people like me who love exploring.

Overall I think Vanguard looks very promising, and I'll be getting a copy when it's released on January 30th.

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PS3 to beat XBox 360?!?!?

Analyst: PS3 to win next-gen warThe Yankee Group predicts 30 million PS3s, 27 million Xbox 360s, and 11 million Wiis sold in North America by 2011.

Analyst: PS3 to win next-gen war - News at GameSpot

Sorry, but I think the Yankee Group is quite wrong here.  The price point of the PS3 is just too high, and very VERY few people will care about high-def DVD for the next year or two, and by then I don't think the PS3 can catch up with the 360 in North America.  I do think the PS3 will still predominiate in Japan, and maybe predominate in Europe, but I don't see it doing well in America unless Sony rethinks their pricing.

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Okay, so I meant to post the previous "Zune" post to my other blog, but this blog has been so idle lately that I decided to leave it.

I'm still noodling with Dolphin, but have been too busy (well, busy with work and/or playing EQ2 constantly) to really do anything lately with Smalltalk and gaming. But, I'm still intending to, well, someday, do some more.

In the meantime I was psyched to hear about Seaside coming over to the latest version of Dolphin....that should be a fun distraction keeping me from doing anything constructive for awhile when I do use Dolphin..... :-)

Microsoft's "Zune"... a name that makes "Wii" look brilliant

Microsoft finally confirmed they're making a challenger to the iPod, but "Zune" (here's hoping this is just a codename still) will evidently be a whole brand name that sounds like it will encompass multiple products eventually. I'm a big fan of music subscription services (I love downloading anything and everything I feel like anytime to my iRiver. I'm using URGE. My Philips HDD6330 is still a bit cranky about WMP 11 thought....), so I have pretty much switched from iPods (who I admit are still the best designed around) over to the 'Plays for Sure' compatible devices like my iRiver and Philips. They're pretty good in their own right, but there's always room for improvemen. Microsoft has certainly proven they can opy-and-improve with the best of 'em, so I hold out some hope this could be good. At the least it'll be interesting!

BBC NEWS | Business | Zune challenge beckons for iPod


Sidetrip to graphics land....

On the creativity/graphics front, I'm learning Lightwave. 3d graphics has been a hobby of mine for awhile, and I'm sure this will come in handy when it comes time to actually create a game. I also have Cinema 4D and XSI Foundation. If I end up doing something character-based and needing character graphics, then I think XSI will be my tool of choice, but otherwise I'm not sure if it'll be Lightwave or C4D. Lightwave is my newest purchase, so it'll probably win out for sheer novelty factor, but C4D is pretty powerful too, so who knows....

That's the lovely part of this being a hobby and not a job...I can make decisions based on personal whim and preference rather than sheer practicality. (Many would no doubt argue that choosing Smalltalk is evidence aplenty of that...)


Note to Self: CHB and Workspace First...

I haven't been doing much the last few days (a friend's wedding, brief vacation in Maine, fun things like that....), but wanted to get back in and finish adding a couple basic things to my invoking TV3D to display a 'Hello World' window.

I had previously managed to use Dolphin's wizard to bring in the TrueVision 3D DLLs and it created all the necessary Smalltalk classes to use them. (I'm still very pleased with how smooth and easy that was!).

My first version of this opened a window that said 'Hello World' using the TrueVision 3D engine, but I didn't have it listening for a keystroke to finish up and close the window as the tutorial did, I had to manually invoke a method in my workspace. (Basic stuff, I know, but I gotta start somewhere....) So, I thought it would be a simple matter to have the test listen for a keystroke and respond to that rather than wait for a manual method invocation.

For the most part, it was easy, but at one point I ran into a minor question that frustrated me because I used my typical way of trying to find a solution rather than a more 'Smalltalk-appropriate' way:

The TV3D example I was following had you wait for the user to press the Escape key in order to close the tutorial window. It was easy to instantiate a TVInputEngine (their class to deal with keyboard, mouse, joystick and other inputs), but I had no clue where to find the constant their example used to identify that the Escape key was hit. (CONST_TV_KEY.TV_KEY_ESCAPE). I started out by hunting around in Google and such, with little luck. (Using TV3D with Dolphin is a rather obscure topic...) Then I happened to look at the class comments in more detail, and saw the reference to a poolDictionary 'TrueVision3DConstants' in the Class definition for the TVEngine class. From there it was a simple matter to browse to the PoolDictionary object, see how it worked, and play around for a bit in a Workspace. For example, I quickly found out I didn't need to prefix with CONST_TV_KEY from a little trial-and-error in the Workspace.

The lesson I learned is that there is a huge amount of info at your fingertips in the Class Hierarchy Browser, and, unlike working in Java or .Net where Googling for answers is often your best bet, a quick trip thru the CHB and some simple tests via a Workspace is a convenient and more efficient approach when stumped.


That rarest of things

A new book on Smalltalk! Well, new as of June 2005. I knew of the author, Stéphane Ducasse, before this book came out because he went through a lot of effort to get various authors' approvals to offer up many older Smalltalk books for free. This was and still is a valuable resource for me as I'm learning Smalltalk.

He's recently had a book published called Squeak: Learn Programming with Robots. It's aimed primarily at teaching coding to kids, and initial opinions on Amazon are good so far. It may not be too applicable to what I'm doing, but I hope for his sake that the books sells well. If you know anyone, young or old, who wants to learn coding, this may be a good place to start!

Dolphin and TrueVision: A Quick Test

Before I had settled on Smalltalk, I had been checking out TrueVision 3D, which is an SDK for 3d game development, because of its strong feature set and the fact that it supports C#. Now that I'm going with Dolphin I was wondering how well it might work with TV3D.

So, I downloaded v6.2 (which you can try for free as long as you don't mind a watermark in the lower right corner of your windows) and gave it a shot. Still being a newbie to Dolphin and Smalltalk as well as TV3D I expected to fumble around for a bit, but, my initial 'Hello World' test worked! Dolphin's wizards were able to set-up Smalltalk classes corresponding to the various functions in the TV3D API, and after spending some time learning how to pass things like window handles and such I was able to create a window and have TV3D render some text to it.

It may not sound like much, but I was happy to get things working relatively quickly given my being a novice in all tools involved. So, I think I'll dive a little deeper and try some more complicated examples over the next few days.


Dolphin XP: This one is just right!

Things didn't go as sequentially as these posts make it seem. I was popping back and forth between the various 'flavors', and it became clear as I would use one for awhile, then try another, and so on, that Object Art's Dolphin XP was the best match for my preferences and what I'm looking to do. Like MT, it's focused on the Windows platform, and provides facilities to smooth working with DirectX and other MS APIs, but maintains a more consistently 'Smalltalk' rather than C++ feel while doing it. Given that one of my goals is learning Smalltalk and the Smalltalk-way of doing things as much as the actual creation of a game, that was a definite plus for my purposes.

It's not perfect (at the time of this post, the help system is one version behind the release, and is a separate install), but it's got many strengths that tie in to what I'm looking for in my environment of choice. It's got a friendly interface with just enought style to make it stand out without getting in the way. It also has a very active and helpful community to assist with any issues that may arise, and plenty of detailed tutorials are out there. There's a newsgroup devoted to Dolphin (comp.lang.smalltalk.dolphin, easy to browse through Google groups...) that remains busy and has lots of good info. The people at Object Arts seem to be very helpful there, consistently chiming in and helping people out with questions/problems/etc..

I've also heard good things about the book 'Dolphin Smalltalk Companion' by Ted Bracht. While it may be a bit dated by now, I found that Amazon had some inexpensive used copies available, so I've ordered one and look forward to working through it.

I found Dolphin's various browsers and other tools well thought out and easy to use. As I did some simple projects in it (doing their tutorials, or some exercises in the book "Smalltalk, Objects, and Design", for example..) I realized I was meeting my primary goal in all this: having fun!! Dolphin's environment 'clicked' for me, and I'm enjoying working with it, and will be using it going forward as I get to know Smalltalk better and begin trying my hand at graphics/game development within Smalltalk. IMHO, they've really nailed the balance between a Windows-specific focus, and Smalltalk tradition.

If you want to take a look at it, then check out Bitwise Magazine's free download for the 'Value Edition'. Their discussion of Smalltalk itself is a fun read too.

I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that the ever-looming next release (v6) seems to be actually/really/this-time-for-sure almost ready to go. There's lots of great looking new features in it. Check out Dolphin Map for a nice overview of the features, and Object Art's own What's New page for an in-depth look at one of those features: a significant addition to their UI that they're calling the 'Idea Space'.

So, I'm very happy to have found the tool of choice for myself: Dolphin XP!

Smalltalk MT: The Fast and the Furious

As I was searching for my Smalltalk environment of choice, I saw several references to Smalltalk MT. It's focused on Windows, with an emphasis on performance. It comes with wrappers all ready to go for calling the various DirectX libraries (If I remember right, it's as current as the October 2004 DirectX 9 release). It definitely seems like a good candidate for game development, so I decided to take a closer look. A subsequent post will go into some details on my experiences getting some DirectX samples working in it, but as for a general summary of my impressions:

MT is offered by Genify in the U.S. and ObjectConnect in Europe. (I think they're basically one and the same, with one site being their European 'face' and the other their American.) The web sites are sparse, but do the job. Good additional information can be found here as well. There's a newsgroup hosted on, but it's been rather inactive lately.

In working with Smalltalk MT I felt it had lots of potential, especially for someone like me who is interested in games development. The interface is well done, and it comes 'ready to go' for working with DirectX. However, I did encounter a couple frustrations working with it too. For example, it provides preferences for setting fonts, etc., but they don't seem to work, they just kept resetting to original values. At one point after trying to change fonts, all the text vanished. When I looked in the preferences settings, I saw the font size was set to some huge huge value, so each letter would have been the size of Cleveland. Setting the font size back down fixed it. I also managed to get things to freeze up a couple times in my poking around. Looking through how MT sets up its classes/methods makes the C++ 'flavor' of things very evident.

But, these were relatively minor things, and my overall impressions were good. This is a Smalltalk with a mission, and it's clearly focused on helping you get compact and fast results, and facilitate working with the various MS APIs. However, that isn't my primary focus (at least at this point in time), and I ultimately ended up with another product, but it was a close call. I did get the personal edition of Smalltalk MT, and look forward to using it in the future. But, for my first project, I settled on...