Building the LongView

In the spring of 2005 I ran an Indianapolis Game Development meetup called Indy Game Dev. It had one other member. We decided we’d make our own computer game.

Indy Game Dev Members

We met at his parent’s house in Fishers where he lived. His family computer was in his parent’s bedroom. I was still working at Old National, 2nd shift, down by the Indianapolis Airport, so it was always late at night when we met.

Longview Start Menu

The game was a turn-based game that worked similarly to how Shadowgate worked. It started you off in a room with a couple of options. The scenes were post-modern, urban decayed scenes with relatively little to no characters.

LongView level One

We mapped out the first level in a rudimentary drawing. It was a simple layout with a couple of different options. The same game could have been played easily without graphics in a ‘Interactive Fiction’-type game.

LongView hallWay

I had just graduated from Indiana University in Indianapolis the year before where I had taken Visual Basic.NET, Javascript, VRML, and HTML classes. In one of my classes I had made several browser-based games. I felt pretty confident.

LongView attack Mode

Right around this same time, Meetup.com decided to start charging for running a meetup. I understood, but it was a little more than I wanted to take on financially at the moment so I turned the meetup over to the other guy and left.

The End of the Line

I learned just enough about game design and 3D engines to discover I didn’t really want to design my own game. I guess I wanted to design a game, but really only wanted to know how it was done. Now I know.

For Those About to Make, I Salute You

In the late 70’s there was a DIY revolution happening in computers at a time when early adopters were literally building their own PCs. A few of these builders got the notion to turn this hobby into a business and we got businesses like HP and Apple out of it. Now the same type of revolution is happening with Makers because of advances in tools that have allowed the everyday man with a passion to build something a few years ago that would have been financially implausible.

Chris Anderson of WIRED magazine has written extensively about the Maker movement and has written a new book about it called, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. An excerpt from this book was included as an article in WIRED about how the New MakerBot Replicator will change the face of desktop manufacturing. In the article, Anderson describes the two main modes of manufacturing, “When 3-D printers make an object, they use an ‘additive’ technology, which is to say they build objects layer by layer from the bottom up. (By contrast, other computer-controlled machines, such as the CNC router and CNC mill, are ‘subtractive’; they use a spinning tool to cut or grind away material.)

A Maker, Michal Zalewski, has created documentation for one type of subtractive milling called the
Guerrilla guide to CNC machining, mold making, and resin casting; Benchtop CNC manufacturing tutorial for robot builders, model makers, and other hobbyists. He writes, “For the past decade, we were being promised a revolution in desktop manufacturing – but unbeknownst to many, a simple, affordable, and home-workshop-friendly solution is already well within the reach. The only problem with [CNC] is that the workflows and materials suitable for small scale, hobby engineering are almost completely undocumented, and difficult to discover on your own.” Zalewski has turned this frustration into a passion and has documented what he has learned so that all can benefit. He got started by buying, “a small CNC mill (Roland MDX-15), set up a resin casting workshop, and invested months of intermittent trial, error, and triumph to understand and befriend both technologies – and document them so that others don’t have to go through all the pain.” While the additive MakerBot Replicator2 is currently hovering at around $2500, Zalewski states that you can get a CNC workshop setup for around $2000. Contrast that with CEREC crown machines, which are subtractive mills that make crowns for teeth and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Co-Working Spaces for Micro Manufacturing

If you’re not interested in buying your own equipment and are close enough to one of these co-working facilities for Makers, you can experience the DIY revolution together:

    Canada

  • MakerSpace – Victoria, BC, Canada – a 3D printer, laser engraver, welding, woodworking, electronics, and a blacksmith shop (with casting furnace)
  • Site3 – Toronto, CA – a variety of milling machines as well as a laser cutter, 3D printer and a new DIY 3-axis CNC that we are putting together right now. Membership works on a monthly fee like you might expect, and each member is given responsibilities for maintaining the shop.
    Australia

  • Robots & Dinosaurs – Sydney, Australia – a couple of cnc mills, a choice of several 3D printers, a laser cutter, and a whole bunch of other useful gear, and people happy to show you how to use them.
  • Make, Hack, Void – Canberra, Australia

If you know of more, please add them to the comments below.

Custom Maps

How I went from being a map blogger to a map maker by just realizing that I love to make custom maps for myself and others.

I always thought of myself as an urban planner anytime I encountered something while driving that didn’t make sense. I used to wish I could change city streets the way you can in Sim City or Sid Meier’s Civilization.

When I worked for other companies I’d make maps of where people sat, where restaurants were located, or branch locations. I was rarely, if ever asked to do these things. I just did them.

As a business analyst, I created many intricate spreadsheets to turn data into usable information that could be shared. Our output was often compared to a map, maps being Edward Tufte’s standard of visual simplicity and design. When I visualized spreadsheet data, I was really making customized maps.

As an IT worker, I created intricate network diagrams of all of our client’s computer setups, which were really just customized maps.

When I finally came to realize that making maps was what I was most interested in, I learned that it was also the lens through which I viewed the world. I created maps in my mind to help me understand the world.

This past weekend I attended The Combine in Bloomington, Indiana. Merlin Mann of 43 Folders was the headliner. Before I left I created the map you see below:

It’s nothing special, just some information from a schedule laid over a Google Map screenshot. The reason I’m showing it is because no one told me to make it, I made it for myself to use at the Conference. I made a map so that I could better understand the material. It’s the same thing I did when I was a business analyst in the banking industry. I made maps of information so executives could make better decisions. In IT I made maps of information so that problems could be solved faster and so everyone could be on the same page as to how a system was setup. No one argues that the United States is located in between Mexico and Canada because maps tell us this is true. Maps make data obvious. They tell a story. They matter. And I care about them. That’s why I like making custom maps.

Map Design Resources

For those interested in map making design, you might enjoy reading Gretchen Peterson’s blog. Gretchen also wrote GIS Cartography: A Guide to Effective Map Design. I’m currently in the process of learning TileMill from MapBox, but may also try MapTiler.