Apologies for my recent silence; the cause is a combination of watching movies (well, DVDs, mostly Last Exile) and being pretty busy last weekend. But now I am, for once, caught up with my other odds and ends (i.e. reading blogs) early enough at night to actually be able to write something.

As I mentioned before, Miranda seems to have gotten serious about the idea of us writing a video game. And we actually have been spending some time on it over the last month, mostly at her prodding. So far, I’ve mostly been playing around with programming, while she draws pictures in a notebook. I’d been using rubygame as a programming framework, and I still might stick with it, but it doesn’t have support for sprites at different depths; this is a problem if, say, you want to have a character walk behind a tree. So now I’m thinking I’ll go with gosu: not much documentation yet, but it seems to be able to do what I want, its sample game is extremely short yet fully functional, and when I was poking around its web site, I saw several pages that showed signs of having been edited within the last hour. All good stuff.

So, right now, I’m trying to find time to convert my rubygame spike into a gosu spike; assuming it goes well, I think I’ll go with gosu. But what should Miranda do while I’m doing my programming?

She’s drawn lots of neat pictures, and I’m sure she could profitably continue along those lines for quite some time. But, if you’re doing things incrementally, you want something functional crossing all layers as soon as possible; by now, my programming is coming along well enough that I could imagine using a picture of hers, and she has drawings to give me. So the only thing stopping us from putting the two together (other than that I’m switching development frameworks!) is that I don’t know how to get her pictures in the game!

Given that, the next step is clear: rather than puttering around with game libraries, I should face up to my fears and attack that problem head-on. So when Miranda asked me this morning if we could work on the game this evening, I decided we should start on digitizing her pictures. Fortunately, my brother was kind enough to give us an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax doohicky last Christmas; time to break in the scanner functionality. Which we did, giving us an electronic copy of one of her designs.

Next, a graphics editor: at the very least, we need the backgrounds of her images to be transparent instead of white. I’d considered and mostly rejected Pixen earlier, but hadn’t found anything better in the interim, so I decided to give that a try. Somewhere either from Scott McCloud or Penny Arcade I’d gotten the idea that the proper technique is to take a scanned-in drawing, add a transparent layer on top, re-ink and color the drawing on the new layer, and then hide the original drawing. Which took us half an hour or so to figure out, both of us being new to the software and ignorant about the details of the process, but ended up working out just fine. So the result is that two black-and-white pencil drawings have turned into colored PNG files with transparent backgrounds; I should be able to just stick them into the game (maybe doing a bit of resizing first) and see how they look. Which will be very exciting!

Watching her do this has also gotten me more convinced of the merits of graphics tablets: she was happy to ink in the lines with the touchpad, but I’m sure it would have been much easier with a tablet. I’m not going to go out and buy one immediately, but she’s sticking with the project well enough that my worries that she would lose interest in a graphics tablet are quickly diminishing. (She’s also spent a lot of time playing around with SketchUp over the last few months, incidentally.)

A fun way to spend the hour between getting home and starting dinner.

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