Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fall 2008 Games Now Available

The game demos from my Game Programming 1 class are now available on the web. You can view movies and download actual versions of the game. This year's class was impressive, out of 12 groups, we got 12 playable games. See for full details.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What happens when a snake meets a bulldozer? Fail!

Friday, September 19, 2008

More on Discovery Park

I just discovered that we're not the only Discovery Park. Wikipedia lists several of them. Eastern Arizona College has one, as does Purdue University, so we're in distinguished company. I hope none of them has copyrighted the name. UNT had to change its School of Visual Arts to the College of Visual Arts and Design when it was discovered that the term "School of Visual Arts" was copyrighted and the owner threatened to sue. That would be unfortunate, given that the big sign out front of the Research Park was changed to read "Discovery Park" some time over the last few days.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Discovery Park?

I saw this sign posted a few weeks ago in the building I work in at the Research Park (sorry, "Discovery Park"). Don't worry, it's in the public domain so the author won't mind if I reproduce it here.

Eureka! I found my publications!

I found my publications! Right there. Right over there. Sitting on top of that rock. Behind that bush, where no one else had looked yet.

Perhaps I am merely sensitive, but does the change from Research Park to Discovery Park seem to belittle what we do here?

Changing "Research" to "Discovery" seems to embrace the inexplicable American trend of anti-intellectualism. Did the word "Research" not attract the right kind of students? Was it too intimidating? It does seem to suggest an arguably unfair requirement of effort.

Discoveries, on the other hand, usually happen to someone by accident. To anyone, really, and usually that person was not looking for anything at all. Inspirational, I admit, and not at all intimidating. I expect peer reviews will relax to accommodate this movement: "We applaud your uncompromising resignation to luck, the cornerstone of discovery. You have the most tremendous luck of any of the authors, nee adventurers, who have submitted a paper thus far. Paper accepted."

I am not genuinely angry. I am confused. I am a little disappointed. When looking at all of the signs we now need to replace, I am thinking about how parking is no longer free.

Disclaimer: I have no publications, discovered or otherwise. I read email sent to (email address deleted so the student doesn't get spammed).

This document belongs to the public domain. It's yours.

I don't know how long it's been there. Signs like this usually get taken down quickly, so if anybody in authority notices this blog they will surely hunt down the sign and remove it.

The author has a good point though. "Discovery Park" is a weak name. It sounds almost as if some administrator went to a thesaurus looking for synonyms of "research" and picked "discovery". That's well and good, but as Chris points out, "Discovery" has negative connotations that were unnnoticed by the administrator involved.

But how important is this? What's in a name, after all a Research Park by any other name would smell as sweet (sorry Will). I don't think the choice of name will affect the quality of research done here or affect the chances of getting grants, or attracting new researchers. That's all in the hands of people like you and me, who value substance over image. They don't care about the name.

Administrators tend to value image over substance. To them the choice of name is important. It's unfortunate and ironic that that fact alone makes them unqualified to make the choice.

But I prefer to look on the bright side (call me "Brian").

I assume that no researchers were involved in the choice of the name "Discovery Park". The time that administrators took making the choice (which probably took committee meetings) could have been spent doing things that are actively harmful to research, such as making more rules and regulations. But it was spent doing something harmless and meaningless. Some administrator no doubt got a bullet point on his or her resume:

  • Named Discovery Park

Meanwhile, we researchers got time to do research while this high-level decision making was going on.

Sounds like a win-win situation to me!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Of all the pictures I took at the beach this year, I think that one's my favorite. Click for a larger image.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Signs of the Times

While on vacation this month the following signs caught my eye.

The first one, the white sign in the background (click for a larger image) says "no tress passing". My dictionary defines a "tress" to be "A long lock or ringlet of hair." Does that mean that we can't pass hanks of hair to each other on the beach? The sign in the foreground does manage to spell "trespassing" correctly, with only three esses.

The next one shows a complete and utter communication failure. It doesn't look like an invisible fence to me! Or maybe I'm just hallucinating the fence. The dog, however, does appear to be invisible. How appropriate.

That's a fail. Just like this parking meter.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Student Evaluation of Instructor

My department has finally updated the evaluation form that students use to evaluate their instructor. The old 12-question form has been changed only once in the last 18 years as far as I can remember. The new form has only 6 questions.

I finally got the evaluations from Spring 2008 back this week. It takes a while for UNT to get around to collating the results. I've posted mine here. Not all professors post theirs, but I think that they should so that students can get full information on their future instructors. Mine are always pretty good so I have no problems posting them.

I'm a little annoyed at one of the comments in my 4220 class this semester though. It's more than a little skewed, shall we say. Since the survey is of necessity anonymous and completely confidential, students sometimes get away with writing the most biased things and we don't get to respond. This time I've decided to respond here.

Not many students have bothered to evaluate me on off-campus sites such as
Blast from the Past

I rediscovered this picture recently. (As one of my favorite quotes says "One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries", this from A. A. Milne, the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh.

It's a publicity photograph of me taken during my years as a young Assistant Professor at Penn State. I'm guessing it's from about 1985. I was in my mid 20s. It was a whole different world back then.

How to Use a Digital Picture Frame

Many of the departments here in the nascent College of Engineering have big $1000 plasma screen TVs hooked up to $600 computers showing a promotional slideshow of their activities. I decided to spend around $100 on a digital picture frame to do the same thing outside my office. After looking at a few frames I decided to buy a Kodak Easyshare SV1011, the old cheap one without the wifi link. Of all the cheap frames I looked at, that one had the best image quality.

I got out my Dremel and bolted it to the wall hard enough so that anybody seeking to steal it will have to totally destroy it to get it off the wall.

I used a few photos I had lying around, and I used the "Save as jpg" feature in PowerPoint to make a few informational slides. If you buy another frame, make sure you check it out on some jpgs of text saved by PowerPoint, because it looked sucky on some of the screens I tried. I was totally unprepared for that, but I guess it figures that the frames are optimized for showing photos cheaply, and people are not going to notice the loss of resolution that really shows up on text.

Do you think any other faculty will follow my lead?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Summer Time.

It's official, Summer has finally begun. Well, actually it started last week, but I've been too busy with closing off the end of semester business to notice.

We got some cool games from my CSCE 4220 class this semester, although unfortunately few of the artists from the Game Art class in the College of Visual Arts and Design were able to follow through with fully animated characters. Nonetheless, my programmers were able to adapt. See the movies for some of the games.

My topics class also generated some cool projects, some of which you can see here. There are several that are not postable yet though, so look forward to seeing those in the (hopefully) near future.

On the plus side, 4 alumni got jobs in the game industry this year, bringing the total up to 49. I'm still hoping to reach 50 this year. The full list is online.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Are we surprised at the following? Probably not.

I am nerdier than 99% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

Friday, April 25, 2008

University of Houston

I just got back from a day and a half at the University of Houston. I gave a colloquium yesterday on game programming classes and research. They took care of me very well, a driver met me at the airport and took me to the hotel, the hotel and meals were all paid for, and even the flight booking was taken care of for me. None of the usual paying for myself then waiting five weeks for a reimbursement. All I had to do is show up. Now that's how it should be done. My own department doesn't even have a budget for colloquium visitors.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Game Programming Certificate

On Wednesday this week the university's Undergraduate Curriculum Committee passed my request for a Game Programming Certificate. This is the last step in a long process - first the Department of Computer Science & Engineering's Undergraduate Committee had to approve it, then the College of Engineering's Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, then the aforementioned committee.

Now I'm working on a brochure and a poster, with a webpage soon to follow. I'm stoked.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Now I'm really depressed.

The US News and World Report ranks UNT as a Tier 4 National university. We're not in very distinguished company there. Bummer. I'm doing my part, what's everybody else doing?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My Declining Career

I was depressed to find the Quacquarelli Symonds website, which hosts the Times Higher Education Supplement's World University Rankings.

Looking at the Top 400 Universities worldwide for 2007, I find that my undergraduate school, the University of Queensland in Australia, comes in at number 33. My graduate school, the University of Warwick in England, is a step down at number 57. My Assistant Professoring was done at Penn State, number 90.

I searched long and hard for my current employers, the University of North Texas in the Top 400 and in the next 100. But it doesn't seem to be there.

My career seems to be a long downhill slide. I wouldn't mind so much, but I'm underappreciated by UNT.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Viva Spring Break!

This week was Spring Break. My wife and my youngest daughter promptly came down with the flu, not your normal measly three-day cold, but the genuine flu. My wife is a constant reminder that the German for "sick" is "krank"... she's constantly cranky that is. So my Spring Break has consisted mostly of hiding in the spare bedroom in an effort not to get sick, while emerging to cook meals and to nag the children to clean up after themselves, the latter a vital job that my wife is unable to do while she's sick, hence she delegates it to me.

Today she insisted that she was well enough to drag us all through the Turner exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. Which was well and good, I suppose, but my favorite part of the DMA is a small permanent exhibit on Sir Winston Churchill including some feathers from his favorite budgie. So here they are, for your instruction and edification, Winston Churchill's budgie Toby's tail feathers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Finally got around to publishing my Cruise Diary from GDCSE 2008. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 06, 2008


I headed to work today with my wife's dire warnings of snow ringing in my ears. About 11am it started sleeting. By noon it was snowing. By 1pm the snow had turned into huge snowy clumps a couple of inches across. Still the university did not announce closing. Finally at 2:10pm I got the announcement from the UNT emergency notification system on my cellphone telling me that the university would close at 2pm.

I would have liked to have gotten the notification before 2pm though.

It took over an hour to slog home through the snow. My thoughts go to the UNT employees who live further north, deeper into the snow. It's not like the university didn't know this was going to happen. At least, to hear my wife talk about it, it was pretty obvious.

Here are images of UNT's front page with my happy smiling face on it, and the article about me. As predicted, they've taken me off the front page already. How fleeting is fame! Click on the images to see full-sized ones that you can actually read.

Monday, February 25, 2008

What's good for Parberry is good for UNT

That's one of the headlines in It seems that the publicity wing of UNT has become very interested in my MVP award this year, hence the above article and my happy smiling face on UNT's front page,

Since fame is fleeting, however, I expect that this too will pass quickly. By the time you read this they will have probably removed it and moved on to other things.

I've always maintained that "What's good for Parberry is good for UNT", like the article says, but unfortunately my colleagues and my superiors at UNT very seldom see things in the same light. Not that I'm complaining of course. But it's nice to get a little validation. ;)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's just like I've said, it's psychologically unhealthy to suppress your anger, because you just end up hurting yourself. Instead, you should let it out where it can hurt other people. A recent study shows that my marriage is indeed a healthy one.
Here are some more images from the show last week, courtesy of Max's camera.

Finally, here's a short Fraps video of the virtual Max being pushed around by my hand.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I can't believe I worked a 16 hour day yesterday. I left home at 8am and met Max Kazemzadeh, the renowned new media artist, down in Fort Worth to prepare an exhibit for an art show.

My wife came down too, and helped Max unload his truck.

Inside the space we set up our interactive animation piece entitled "Max is a Pushover" in among the pottery, painting, clothing, and sculpture. One other Art professor and her student were preparing an interactive piece where you use a computer to figure out your carbon footprint and compute how many Earths we'd need if everybody used that much, then rip down the appropriate number of blow-up globes from the wall, blow them up, and put them in a heap. Interesting. We'll see how that one works out.

First we had to bring in all the stuff and construct the physical part of the installation, the computer, the video camera, and the projector.

Meanwhile I did some intense coding. The code consisted of some of the code from the Zach demo that you'll find earlier on this blog, with some different behaviours and some new images. Max videotaped himself yesterday and post-processed this into a series of sprites for me... this morning right after we unloaded his truck. He said he'd have them 24 hours in advance for me, but no pressure.

Max continues to cut wood...

Around 3pm the piece starts to come together physically. However, we're having trouble getting the DirectX and DirectShow User Runtimes installed on Max's computer, not to mention the drivers for the video camera. You see, his computers have been set up by the College of Visual Art and Design's technicians, and place serious limits on user access, even when they supposedly have "administrator" privileges on the machine.

Around 5pm we give up and plan to show the demo using my development laptop. I still haven't written the code. About this time the virtual Max will fall down in response to keystrokes, but there's no sign of camera input.

About this time I discover an obscure multithreading bug with DirectX and DirectShow and manage to exorcize it. Serious hair-tearing time for a while with the demo crashing faster than a 1960s Lada with very little debug information.

Eventually, around 10pm everything started to come together. After removing the last bug - using a video-space variable instead of a screen-space one - I'm able to put the finishing touches on the software and Max can clean up the hardware.

After a few "official" photos and videos by Max, we're able to hit the road after 11pm. Max drops me home at midnight. Day officially seized.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A New Spin on Class Participation

In my game programming class last night I was reminded yet again that the world has changed since I was a student. I've set up a Subversion server in my lab so that the artists and programmers can keep a group repository of their developing game. During class I assigned a homework to be submitted on the subversion server, and lo and behold, as I was showing them on my laptop how to turn it in, I see that one of the students in the class had already accessed the repository from his laptop while I was lecturing.

This is a Good Thing.

Professors today need to remember that this is an "on demand" world and tailor their classes accordingly.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I brought home something from the class that I wasn't expecting - the flu. :(

More later.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Torque X Boot Camp: Day 2

This is the third day (I started numbering at Day 0). We briefly went through the process of adding delegates to a game object in our 2D games. Now we're looking at Torque 3D. There's no Builder, so everything is done in XML. They're working on a 3D Builder though, which will make the whole process much easier.

They're focussing on the Art pipeline. We're going to create an object in 3D Studio Max and bring it into the Torque 3D terrain demo. After that we messed with the code a little to make the player teleport to the place a grenade ends at. It's all quite simple code, as usual with this kind of thing the majority of the time is spent in deciphering the wrappers and figuring out which class has the responsibility we need, and then figuring out what they named the appropriate function. Sigh.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Torque X Boot Camp: Day 1

Now we're working through a tutorial guided by the instructor.

Notice the coffee and banana for breakfast. Dilbert again. Here's a short video showing what we're doing - bouncy Garage Games logos.


Finally, Breakout with flies.

At dinner we broke up and a group of out-of-towners opted for steak, while my wife and I drove a small goup to Jinbeh in Lewisville, arguably the best sushi in the area. The cognitive dissonance of being served by two Mexican sushi chefs is made up for by the excellence of the food. We're not talking Fusion here, we're talking classical Japanese restaurant-style sushi.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Torque X Boot Camp: Day 0

Up at 6:00am. Argh. I'm seeing the sunrise from the "other side", I'm getting flashbacks to being a graduate student again. Shower. Breakfast. The dog looks at me like I'm crazy.

The drive to SMU at Legacy is easier than I expect, less than 50 minutes. They have a reasonable breakfast set out, heavy on the bananas. Are they sending us a message here? I'm thinking of the Dilbert cartoon that says that Engineers tend to lose credibility when they're eating bananas.

There are about 17 students in class, and 3 instructors from Garage Games. Stephen Zepp and John Kanalakis are the instructors, Davey Johnson the facilitator. So far, so good.

Here we go...

We're going around introducing ourselves. There's a good mix, high school teachers and university faculty. So far everybody seems to be a newbie... some have industry experience and are new at the academic thing, and some are academics and/or teachers just starting out with game development.

That took a long time. The rest of the day discussed concepts. It might have been too long for those of us who already know what we're doing, but totally incomprehensible to those who don't.

Dinner was at Mi Cocina just around the corner from the Guildhall.