Amy Parent

Hi, I’m Amy Parent! By day, I study cloud evolution in brown dwarfs at Abertay University. By night, I get bruises skating with Dundee Roller Derby and make video games.

Neon Nature - Marina And The Diamonds

Marina opens the show with The Family Jewels
The band opens the Family Jewels act with Mowgli’s Road.

After Marina released her last album, Froot, I managed to get a ticket for the Neon Nature concert in Glasgow (at the O2 abc, a pretty small, nice venue) before everything sold out. The show was organised in three acts — one dedicated to Froot, of course, but also one of each of her previous albums.

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Welcome Back, Falcon 9

First stage, seconds before landing
Something you don’t see every day: a rocket coming home after a job well done

After a hiatus of six months following the failure of the CRS-7 mission last may, SpaceX returned to flight yesterday. Falcon 9 Full Thrust not only placed its 11 Orbcomm satellites in orbit — the first stage executed its return sequence perfectly, and came to perfect stop on SpaceX’s Landing Complex 1. I was impressed by Blue Origin’s landing in November, but this is on a whole new level.

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A Good Day For Space

YouTube video: 9pillaOxGCo

Wow. Yesterday, Blue Origin (a space tourism company founded by Jeff Bezos) released the video of their suborbital rocket’s second test launch. The first part of the flight is nearly identical to the one that occurred last year — go up, release the capsule and let it come down under parachutes. The return of the booster is much more impressive: it comes down screaming before halting itself to a stop, hovering and landing softly under its own power.

I don’t care much for the argument that Bezos and Elon Musk got into — yes, what SpaceX is attempting to do by landing its Falcon 9 first stage is harder because the vehicle is going faster, farther, and with a narrower throttle range. But no matter who does it first or best, this is a big achievement. If anything, I’m glad that there is some competition in the reusable rocket market.

And who could deny that this landing looks amazing? I’m intrigued by how much the stage rocks left and right in the first bit of the powered deceleration, almost like it’s over correcting. I’m sure Blue Origin has a whole team of amazing engineers working on that — after all, they landed a rocket — and it’s either meant to be this way, or will be corrected thanks to the data collected during the test.

Congratulations to the whole team behind that launch. It might have been easier than landing a Falcon 9, but it certainly can’t have been easy.

Glitch Effects Without Shaders

Glitch in Slow Motion

For last weekend’s game jam, I needed to create a CRT-style glitch effect. The proper way to do this would be to use shaders — Unity, SpriteKit & all let you add custom shaders to game objects — but my engine does not (at the moment) support shaders, because the current version uses SDL to draw to the screen. I found a way around that may not look as good as it would have with shaders, but still works.

The code examples in the article use Meteor’s API (C++), but they are simple enough that they could be translated for SpriteKit, Cocos2D or other 2D engines with very little work.

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Double Jam Postmortem

I’ve taken part in two game jams over the last month: Charged Hearts Jam (#CHJam) and Abertay Game Development Society’s first jam, #AGDSJam. Rather than do a post for each, I thought I’d do a small grouped postmortem.

Charged Hearts Jam was organised in Abertay University’s art gallery during the opening weekend of the Hearts & Minds exhibition. In the presence of the artists, we had to make a game inspired by the exhibition and a game from the 1990s, Charged Hearts. The Space In Between, our game, is quite simple: each player must collect their partner’s hearts to keep them healthy, and stay close to each other to avoid loosing health too quickly.

The Space In Between

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Game Making Tools

Last weekend, I got asked by a few visitors how to get started in game development, and what tools I use to make my games. I’m probably not that qualified to answer the former — I’ll still try to make a longer article some time in the future — but I thought I’d make a quick list of my game making tools.

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Why I make games

Dare Protoplay Festival's banner

A month ago, I got a mail saying I could present Ghosts at the Dare Protoplay festival. I’d never been as a visitor, and I expected maybe a couple hundred visitors over the week end, having never been to the festival. I was wrong.

Dare Protoplay players
A few of the countless visitors.

On Sunday alone, the least busy of the two days, 561 rounds of Ghosts were played. Some kids remembered the game from the DCA event in January. Some discovered it, some told me it was their favourite game. Many gave me tips on how I could make it better. Most played again and again to try and beat the high score. After two days of standing up, I was exhausted, but I still have a smile stuck on my face.

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Space is Hard

Falcon 9, before launch
Image in public domain, from SpaceX

Yesterday, SpaceX lost a Falcon 9 rocket on its way up to the International Space Station about 2:19 after liftoff. A bitter reminder that even with a reliable rocket like Falcon 9 had been thus far, Space is hard. The packed schedule of launches to supply the ISS make it look like routine, but the last twelve months have shown us that it is anything but routine: Antares Orb-3 failed in October, Progress M-27M in march, and now Dragon SpX-7. Three failures of three completely different designs.

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