Tidy Riping

A couple of days ago I finished a really awesome book called Rip Tide. This book is the sequel to another amazing book called Dark Life. Dark Life is about a kid named Ty, who has a “dark gift” which enables him to see by clicking his mouth  like a bat (biosonar or echolocation). He meets a girl named Gemma who is looking for her brother in the pioneering districts of the ocean.

Rip Tide opens with Ty’s parents being captured by some surfs (surfeit population living in huge townships). Before this, while swimming around in the ocean Ty and Gemma discover a huge township with no surviving surfs. He and Gemma have to track them down and help his parents. They some figure out that these acted are relating to each other.

I really liked the book, but the thing I hated was when it ended! I really want a third book of the series to come out. The Dark Life series is one of the best I have ever read! I liked how there was a twist at the end of the book. If there was one thing I could change in the book I wish it was longer. I wish I could have a book that was a long as one of the later Harry Potter books, but not as long as the last Harry Potter book because I think that is too overwhelming in length. But, anyways I really enjoyed the series and can’t wait for the next book (if she is writing a new one).

The Layers of 3D Level Design

One of the most important things in a 3D game is level design. Changing the way something plays can turn a terrible game into an okay one and a good game into a mediocre one. The problem with level design is that it is not easy. I’d even go as far to say it’s one of the hardest parts of making a game, because even if you are skilled at your level editing program and make your map look nice, you still have to do a lot of research into how the map plays.

There are many different aspects to level design. Different layers, if you will. There’s the art layer, the action layer, the interactive layer, and the logic layer. The tricky part is getting all of these layers to work perfectly alone and together. A map could look great but have terrible action, or another map could have great puzzles but a confusing layout.

These mountains force the player to follow a certain path.

The surface layer is the art layer. It doesn’t often contribute to gameplay, but it can greatly affect how someone views a map. For example, maps in games like Battlefield 3 have a better art layer than maps from Counter-Strike 1.6, not taking into account system limitations. Although this is the case, it does not make Battlefield 3 maps inherently better. The only time the art layer interacts with any other layer is when the details within a map are used as instructions or obstacles. Some examples of instruction would be signs leading the player toward his goal, or lighting in a dark level, leading the player down the right path (or wrong one, if you’re feeling a little evil.) The other way they interact is obstruction. You could have curtains blocking the view of a window, or darkness used for the sole purpose of making it hard to see.

The level design of Counter-Strike is known for being balanced and fun.

The action layer is what I call the simple level design of the map. This includes pathways for the player to travel along, doorways to pass through, stairs to climb, and ledges to jump off of. The action layer is arguably the most important layer of level design. If your map isn’t fun to play it doesn’t matter how good it looks. It’s extremely important to have this as your first priority when in the beginning stages of designing your map. In single-player games, the main goal is to make sure that the levels are complicated enough to provide a challenge, but not so complicated that they make the player give up in frustration. This is the downfall of some games. In multi-player games, it is important to make your map balanced. Balance is when the map is designed so that neither team has a geographical advantage over the other.

The interactive layer is important to gameplay, but is probably the least important if you had to order them. A multi-player map does not even require an interactive layer, although it can still have one. This layer consists of things that the player interacts with in order to advance the game. This can include a multitude of things, from buttons, levers, and control panels in a single-player game, to flags and control points in multi-player games. The interactive layer adds extra depth and complexity to a level.

An example of logic entities.

The deepest layer is also the layer that the others are most dependent on. You cannot actually see the logic layer, as it consists of entities and scripts that make the map work. This includes scripts controlling enemies,  events, flag captures, and the like. Without these, the map won’t work.

Many people say that they can map, and that it is easy. Maybe, maybe. But they must take into account the many layers of level design in order to make a good map. All the layers must be functional on their own and in tandem with the others. After that, then it’s smooth sailing towards engaging gameplay.

Step Away From That Net!

Every day our family goes to the YMCA Gym. About a month ago they opened the outdoor pool. My brother Connor and I go to the outdoor pool whenever we get a chance. The pool is amazingly awesome. One part of the pool is zero entry. One of my favorite parts of the pool is the big water mushroom (which is weird because I don’t like mushrooms)! It has a big blue water slide as you can see in the picture, but I don’t go on it that much because of the big line. The pool also features a medium height diving board, but my absolutely favorite part of the pool is the game my brother and I made up about a week ago.

Its called Aqua Keep Away. The point of the game is to stop the other player from getting to the rope marking the deep end. It is a two player game. One player is the Guardian and the second is the Invader. The Invader tries to get past the Guardian and reach the rope. I loved this game so much I didn’t want to leave whenever our parents finished working out and told us we had to go home. I want to continue playing this game until the outdoor pool closes during the Winter.

Schwinn Sierra GS

I like to bike, and it’s pretty useful that I have a bike to ride on. I own a Schwinn Sierra GS. It rides smooth and straight and it shifts gears quickly and smoothly. It is a path and recreational bike, meaning that it is not a mountain bike, but it is not a sport or training road bike. It has better traction than a road bike but does not go as fast, and does not fare well in bumpy conditions. However, it is just perfect for casual or light exercise rides.

The bike was a hand-me-down from my Dad and still in perfect working condition. The only thing not 100% about it is the back wheel has a quite obvious “wobble”, meaning that it was bent out of shape from a collision of some sort. It’s not noticeable until you look at the wheel spinning. I can still ride it, and fixing it would be as easy as taking to a bike shop for a tune up.

Shifting and braking are pretty standard. My rear brake pads had to be loosened a little to account for the wobble, but both front and back brakes work well. My bike has 21 gears, so the left handlebar has three settings and the right has seven. The lower gears make it easier to ride up hills while the highest gear lets me go pretty fast.

I am really happy with my Schwinn Sierra. Eventually, I want to upgrade to a dedicated road bike, but for now this bike fills the requirements for everything I need. It can go fast, it can ride up hills, it can brake, it can roll smoothly, it’s tough, it’s safe, it’s comfortable, and it’s green. That’s pretty much all you need.

Night of Epicness

Yesterday at 7:00 my dad and I left the house to go to the movies. I had been asking him to do it for a couple of weeks now and… FINALLY! We went to the movies to watch Prometheus, a newly released suspense si-fi thriller and go out to eat afterwards because a while ago Alexander went to see Watchmen with daddy and ate sushi. I absolutely love it! The movie was great but a bit scary I could handle it though. The gist of the movie was these archaeologists found evidence of a group of beings who created humans. Then two years later they are funded by Weyland Corp. to travel to a planet which is where they think the beings live. But on the planet events cause members of the crew to die and the mystery of the planet and its purpose to reveal itself. After the amazing movie we walked next door to the Kampai Sushi and Hibachi. I love this place! First we got ginger salad and miso soup. Then we got a Joker Roll, Alaskan Roll, Crunch Roll, California Roll, and a Volcano Roll. My favorite by far was the Crunch Roll! It is a roll filled with tempura shrimp and covered in a shrimp with sweet sauce. I can not wait to do it again!

Bear Necessities

Do you have a favorite type of animal that you will always like more than others? Mine is the bear. Why, you may ask? I like it for more reasons then I can name. One for example is, I like the bear because they have strength, endurance, and the ability to adapt to the situation they are in. In this article I want to show you three of the many different types of bears and their qualities.

First, I’ll start off with the one and only Grizzly bear. The Grizzly is a subspecies of the Brown bear and they live mostly in the uplands of western North America. Like most bears the Grizzly feeds on salmon coming upstream. Except for cubs and females, Grizzlies normally live by themselves and are active animals.

Second, the American black bear. Black bears are omnivores. They feed on a variety of foods depending greatly on the season and location. The IUCN lists Black bears as Least Concern because the large global population of the Black bear is estimated to be twice that of all other bear species combined.

Third, the Polar bear. The Polar bear is the world’s largest land carnivore and also the largest bear. The IUCN list Polar bears as Vulnerable on the red list. An adult male weighs about 770–1,500 lbs, while an adult female weighs about half of that! The Polar bear is a bear that is largely native within the Arctic Circle.

Road Taken

A lake by the 30A. We rode past this.

The wind buffets my hair as I speed past a lake filled with water lilies. Unfamiliar faces are standing on the precipice of the bridge, luring ignorant fish to their untimely deaths. Lights come and go, leaving their white and red impressions upon my retinas. The pair of wheels supporting my weight spin and bounce over the unstable gravel and glide smoothly over the paved path. A soft whine fills my ears as the air flows over me and my vehicle, accompanied by a refreshing breeze. Cautious, I stop at an intersection, making sure that no clueless or distracted driver turns me into roadkill. The flashing lights added to my bike as a precaution provide some visibility, but you can never be too sure. My ride is taking me all the way to the edge of the land, up to the ocean.

This was the route I took.

On my third day of my summer vacation in Florida I took a bike ride with my dad down the bike path that ran the 30A highway in Florida. We hadn’t used the bike yet and I suggested that we take them for a spin. After getting ready to ride we hit the road. The sky was already changing color so we knew we couldn’t go far. Riding in the dark isn’t safe. We had cool bike lights, but lights don’t really protect you from people who aren’t paying attention.

The road from our house on was rough and bumpy but not too bad. The paved roads of our green way spoiled me. It felt good riding around there where it is windy by default, so when biking it’s like putting a fan at your face. We had to be careful when we were crossing the road because of the crazy vacationing drivers.

I love riding my bike. It’s a good way of travel and there is no gas required. You are out in the open so you can feel the breeze on your face and see in all directions around you. As long as you’re careful and have the energy to pedal, I say the bike is as good a transport as any. I love taking it to the green way or the Silver Comet trail. It’s smooth over the road and I know it well, so I can steer it with ease. It’s a very nice bike, and I’m happy to have it. It’s dark green, my favorite color, and it has 27 gears. I can go slowly and leisurely, or fast and hard. The lower gears help me easily up hills.

I really love biking. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. Biking the 30A at night was really enjoyable and exciting. I’d never rode at night before, and the beach air was fresh. I’m glad I took that road.

Night-riding

Last Week on June 10 – June 16 my family and I went on vacation to Seagrove Beach. We stayed in a beach house called “Heavenly Sunshine.” From the many exciting and entertaining events we journeyed on that vacation my favorite was when we toured the city at night. We got our bikes ready at the house during late afternoon and took off strolling towards Seaside. The thing I enjoyed most about that night was riding swiftly down the sidewalk with the chilling breeze flying past my face.

When we got down to Seaside my stomach started to growl because of the Silver Bullet Stands in the center of Seaside. We parked our bikes at a park and walked over to the small outdoor shopping area and searched for an area to eat. We found the Shrimp Shack, Bud & Alley’s Seafood Bar, Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar, and ever so more shops and restaurants. After pacing around the area we decided to go to Bud & Alley’s Seafood Bar. We went inside and the waiter at the front said it was going to be a two hour wait! But the waiter had one more option we could sit at the bar in the front of the restaurant. We took the second option. We had a wonderful meal and it started to get dark.

When we got back to the bikes the sky was already a shade of dark smog. That’s when the real fun started. We headed down on the 30A Highway and turned around after we passed a small plaza. On the other side of the path was the entrance to a neighborhood. We turned in there and navigated its twists and turns till’ we found the exit again. On our way back home we stopped at the snappy turtle to get an ice cream. We then arrived home. I thought this was one of the best things we did on this vacation.

Platoons and Cataracts

This is were we stayed last week.

Last week my family and I went on the most amazing vacation to Seagrove Beach, Florida. Seagrove Beach is located to the east of Destin. It is a very peaceful town on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. We stayed in a small one floored yellow house in Cassine Village. We were walking distance from the beach which I thought was really cool.

We stayed there for a week and had many great experiences, but the thing we did that I loved the most was when we drove down to Choctawhatchee Bay and rented a three person WaveRunner for an hour and a Pontoon for four hours. The WaveRunner was amazing it was like you were flying across the water. Since we had it for one hour and it had three seats we each got to go on for twenty minutes, twice. I thought the forty minutes was enough, because I was hurting at the end from all the shaking and bouncing.

This is me, Alexander, and daddy on the WaveRunner.

But the fun was not over! We rented a pontoon for four hours and after we turned in the WaveRunner we brought our stuff to the pontoon (with the help of one of the employees) and unloaded it. The boat was really nice and had seats lining the edge with storage under the cushions. After a short time loading the boat we took off! It was fantastic, the wind blowing in your face was fun (but got annoying once you had gotten in the water and back out again). We sailed/drove around a bit until we found a shallow place, great for snorkeling which we had seen on our WaveRunner recon mission. We then laid anchor (Arrr!) and got out with our snorkeling mask and snorkel (and fishing nets) and went to the grassy areas deeper out to the bay. In these places we found tons of hermit crabs! The bigger ones were intimidating but had a cuteness to them. We also caught two regular crabs without normal claws but kind of pokey needles as hands.We stored our newly caught treasures in a bucket. It was funny to watch all the crabs trying to climb out of the bucket and failing. After about an hour there we sailed/drove around for another two hours before stopping past the bridge at a beach only accessible by boat. It was really cold and we had to bring to the pontoon back because our four hours were up so we left.

This is me snorkeling in the bay.

After turning in the boat we loaded up the car and drove a while back in the direction of our house but we stopped at a restaurant called Bayou Bill’s Crab Shack. I loved it there! I got a plate of Broiled Shrimp and Scallops with a baked potato. It was great, but the best part of the meal was the Calamari appetizers, YUM! It was a pleasant surprise to see the shrimp without heads because a couple of days earlier we had shrimp at Bud and Alley’s and it was completely whole, head, eyes, everything! It was kind of creepy yet tasty at the same time. I still prefer headless foods.

Overall, LOVED the trip! WE might go back next year (I wish) and have a plan of what cool things we could do then. This was one of the most exciting weeks I have ever had! The house was phenomenal. The beach was beautiful. And the food was amazing! Can’t wait until next year!

Leaving Elementary School

I know it is about two weeks into the summer, but it was pretty hard leaving elementary school for the last time. I’d be heading on to 6th grade at the middle school next year! But no doubt i’d remember 5th grade because we had a boat load of fun activities to do in that last week. We had a Rising 6th grader party at the middle school, a fun day called survivor day just for 5th graders, a day when we ate breakfast with dads and signed each others yearbooks right after we ate, we also had a Promotion Ceremony for all of the  5th graders. First, I’ll explain Survivor Day. Survivor Day was an outdoor activities day. It was based on Apps so some of the games were like Angry Birds, Island Shower, Elephant Stomp, etc. After we did the games we had lunch and snow cones. After we ate we had free play until the end of the day. The breakfast with dads kind of explains it self we got in line with our dads and got some pancakes and bacon. After we ate with our dads we walked over to where the yearbooks were got one and started to sign each others. I took a picture with my dad and then he left to go to work and I continued sign people’s yearbooks. The Promotion Ceremony was basically a graduation for the 5th graders. We received a certificate of graduating from Elementary school, a book called “I knew you could”, and a CD of a video someone made to show the things we did this year in 5th grade. I loved Elementary School and hope Middle School won’t be to different.