Welcome to my Blog!

•January 23, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Hi There, and thank you for dropping by.

This is my feeble attempt at writing and blogging.  I’ve decided to utilize WordPress rather than other popular social networking because while those other sites are great for staying current with family and friends, they should not, in my opinion, be used as a soap box or pulpit.

I consider this site to be like television.  You have the power to change the channel.  If you wish to engage in the conversation I welcome you, as long as you are respectful to my views and my other visitors.  If you’re a spammer, don’t hang around, just leave quietly!

Again, thanks for dropping by!


Jim (in the Matrix)

Review of Annie Bellet’s “Justice Calling: The Twenty-Sided Sorceress: Book One”

•January 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This was one of the first “books” I got for my Kindle.  I was looking for a story that was easy to get into.  On Amazon this story got an average of 4 out of 5 stars from 219 reviews.  The Twenty-Sided Sorceress is an episodic collection of Urban Fantasy short stories about Jade Crow and her adventures.

Centered in the fictional modern-day town of Wylde, Idaho, the story focuses on a shapeshifter working with Jade and her friends to solve a murder.  The murder was seen in a vision by the shapeshifter with Jade was the murderer.  The town of Wylde is populated with many types of magical people and is considered a refuge.  But when shifters mysteriously disappear Jade must solve the mystery of the vision and save her friends and herself.

The story itself is enjoyable since Ms. Bellet does a good job with pacing and characterization.  We learn early in the story about the central character and her powers.  Bellet strings out the details of what it means to be a sorceress.  This helped move the story forward.  Having a twenty-sided die as her power focus initially gave me the feeling of amateurish writing but I think I was being biased in that view.  We learn of Jade’s past and Bellet does well slowly weaving it into the story.  To save her friends Jade must make a difficult choice that may bring her past roaring back into her present day life, but the alternative is the death of those close to her.  The shapeshifter Justice is an immediate attraction to Jade and her mental lusting comes off a bit like a soft-core porn story in thought,or perhaps a reflection of how men may view an attractive woman.  I felt it was a bit of a distraction that early in their first meeting.  As the storyline matures the reader finds what a reader of urban fantasy expects but with a decently fresh spin on it.  Bellet does enough to keep us attached to the mythology but doesn’t venture far from the main backbone.  A reader looking for a fresh take on this mythology will be disappointed.  Those looking to stay inside those boundaries won’t have any issues staying connected to the story.

On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Justice-Calling-Twenty-Sided-Sorceress-Book-ebook/dp/B00M9WCUOQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1422308934&sr=1-1&keywords=Justice+Calling

Finding Inspiration

•January 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I had started a class in Computer Game Design.  One of the first things the professor had us do was to go out and find inspirational imagery to help us visually define the game.  I had trouble identifying with this and it didn’t really sink in.  Later when I was starting to use Scrivener for my writing I happened across a vlog on YouTube by Garrett Robinson where he would Google for images that fit into his minds-eye caricature of the character.  It finally clicked!  I’m a visual person so having these imagery in my Scrivener notebook kept me focused on what my character looked like.  DeviantArt is a great place to hunt for such imagery, if you are willing to ignore the less savory people put up there.  Pinterest is another site I’m starting to troll for inspirational imagery.  The downside is there is so much stuff to look at I find I can spend too much time browsing and not enough time writing.

Garrett Robinson’s YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXsUliVLTraEoy-M9GdDNjw)

Kindle Paperwhite

•January 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes I’m a slow adopter of technology.  An electronic reading device was something I had trouble bringing myself to purchase.  I like the feel and smell of books, but hauling several books around can be cumbersome.  I blame it on George (R. R. Martin).  Carrying around those hefty novels can give you back strain!  This past “Happy Holiday” I asked my wife for a Kindle.  I originally asked for the Kindle Voyage (the latest/greatest), but the local electronics megastore were out of stock.  She bought me Amazon Gift Cards instead (she was ashamed she had to do that).  The day after I eagerly logged into my Amazon account and selected the Voyage but before purchasing I noted they were out of stock for the next 5-6 weeks.  That got the hamsters spinning I’m sorry to say!  I began to weigh the differences between the Paperwhite and the Voyage.  Ultimately the deciding factor was that the Voyage was $100 more with relatively minor increase in what we’ll call electronic improvements.

Since I’ve purchased the Paperwhite I have been impressed with how easy it is to read.  It looks small when compared to a paperback.  Initially I consciously found myself tapping the page-forward quickly as I tore through my first book.  I’m not a speed-reader but I read quickly.  The frequency of my page-forward tapping was a bit of a distraction.  After using it for a month though it rarely notice it.  A feature I find useful is the “approximate time to end-of-chapter”.  It gauges your read speed and estimates how long until you complete the chapter.  I’m the type that likes to break my reading at the chapter or section, so this feature is like what I used to do with a book and that was to thumb ahead to see where the end of the section was and whether I would get there (too sleepy, or the plane was pulling into the gate, you get the picture).

Anyway, I’m rambling now … my first month of owning a Kindle has been positive.  My wife calls me a procrastinator but I think in this case dragging my feet was the right call.

Staggering to the Starting Gate

•January 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I like to read and (try) to write.  Under the Reviews category I will provide reviews of stories I have read.  I do this in the hopes of improving my writing.  As I learned photography I first had to learn how to analyze and critic a photograph.  We shall see if the same applies.  A word of warning, however.  When I review there is the real possibility that spoilers will be inside.

Photon provides a Unity3D Plugin for Networking

•December 17, 2013 • 1 Comment

Photon recently released their PUN plugin for Unity3D that allows the “Free” user to implement networking in their game.  To extend to Android requires purchase of the PUN+ ($95).

PUN initially works with the Photon Cloud service that provides a pipeline for the data.  There is no back-end to the cloud server.  The client must have the world and any prefabs that get instantiated at run-time.  Thus there is NO persistence.  However, with the Photon Server, one can develop some back-end server side scripts that provide world persistence.

Photon can be found here:


No Android Comm with Unity Free and Android Basic

•July 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

After some research it appears that Unity Technologies has neutered Android from using any socket communication.  I can either learn to write plugins for Android, or, puke out $1100 to upgrade my Android Basic license to Android Pro.

In the meantime, one can continue forward with the design and “plug in” the comm portion, if the game is designed properly … perhaps.


MMO Comm with Unity 3D

•July 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment

So I’ve spent the last five or six months building a basic level in Unity 3D for Android.  The code is ugly, but I can move around the level and interact with critters.  With that basic knowledge in my cap I plan on expanding the prototype to extend it to an MMO environment.  I’ve checked into various platforms and have settled on testing two (for now).  One is Player.IO (http://playerio.com/) and the other is SmartFoxServer2X (http://www.smartfoxserver.com/).  My goal is to abstract the communication layer out so that I can make the push the server details down to a class that “simply” gets swapped out.  Easier said than done, but this is the route I’m going to look at.

At first glance Player.IO looks a bit more promising with its list of features: BigDB, PayVault, etc..  These features are absent on SmartFoxServer2X.  Following their online instructions for installation of the SDK and Development Server it is obvious that they haven’t been updated in sometime.  Their zipped package comes with an already built server (contrary to the online instructions stating you have to build it in MS Visual C# studio).  They do provide a Unity example which I plan to look at immediately and see how easy (or difficult) it is to utilize this product.  One upside is that they host the server-side code and provide a free/development access level that isn’t too shabby for testing with a broader user-base.

SmartFoxServer2X is a decent server that I’ve previously played with.  They provide good Unity 3D support with examples and documentation.  The server-side needs Java-based development if one wishes to extend the server to handle things other than just a pass-through of messages.  The other nice thing is that this server can run locally on an intranet so different clients can connect for testing.  However, hosting the server requires the team to install it elsewhere in a cloud such as Amazon or one of SmartFoxServer’s preferred cloud providers.  These preferred providers have turn-key solutions that appear to make deployment straightforward.

More later as I start exploring this new prototype.


Change in Direction

•January 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Well, after months of playing around with the Android SDK and what not, I’ve decided on a sea change and moved back toward Unity 3D.  I’ve picked up a basic Android license and have been working on some projects.  One is contracted the others are personal.  On the personal side I’m building games for Android that I want to play.  Not necessarily ones that will sell.  I’m doing this to learn about the process.  With my many years of Software Dev and Engineering I feel that gives me some advantage on the scripting side.  The difficulty for me is the artwork.  I’m not artistically gifted.  Yes, I can make good meshes in Blender that work well when skinned and animated, but the textural details is where I need help.  However, with Unity’s Asset Store I find decent models already animated and textured at reasonable prices.  Saves me the hassle and lets me focus back on the game design and implementation.  And that’s what I enjoy.

Stay tuned.  Hopefully I’ll have more to say sooner than later, eh?


Jim (jiminthemmatrix.com)

Adding the jMonkeyEngine to the Eclipse Environment

•February 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

jMonkeyEngine (http://jmonkeyengine.org/introduction/) is an open source Java 3D Game Engine.  They provide their own development environment, but it uses NetBeans as the IDE (http://netbeans.org/).  It is also a well supported IDE similar to Eclipse.  I decided, again for better or worse, to stay with Eclipse.  Fortunately jMonkeyEngine provides their engine and its supporting libraries as .jar files.  I downloaded these and installed them “next to” the AndroidSDK, ie C:/AndroidSDK/Android/jMonkey.  Their instructions are easy to follow:


They have a good list of tutorials for instructing how to use their engine in a desktop environment.  Moving that into the Android realm they provide a beta solution, but the documentation is lacking.  In the next post I will outline how I took a tutorial of theirs, and by trolling through their Android forum, came up with making that same example work on an Android device.


Setting up the Android Development Environment

•February 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This is fairly well documented environment.  Google and the Eclipse organization have made it easy to get going.  Rather than rewrite what they have online go to:


and follow the directions.

I have 3 different hardware setups I work from: Toshiba Laptop with Vista 64-bit, Dell Desktop with Vista 32-bit, and a Dell Laptop with Win7 64-bit.  The development environment is mostly independent of the hardware used.  However, I have had issues with the Dell Laptop (Win 7 64-bit) and getting the USB driver to recognize my Toshiba Thrive AT100 (16 MiB).  I have yet to try it on the Vista hardware.

Notes on install and other miscellaneous stuff:

  • when installing the Android SDK, keep the path simple by NOT using any spaces in the path
  • if you plan to do any OpenGLES 2.0, the emulator does not support it.  I connected my tablet to the laptop and used it in its debug mode.
  • set the environment variable, ANDROID_SDK_HOME, to the directory you installed the SDK (this is important)