Blog Archives

Video Game Charities to Help Children

I hate news.  I try to avoid watching the news on TV and keep up with most things simply by glancing over the headlines on yahoo.com.  Yes, I want to be informed, but at the same time I’m the kind of person who will remember a disturbing picture or story for years.

Some things of course are simply hard to just pass over, like what happened in Boston yesterday.  It’s saddening and infuriating and frustrating that something like that could happen, and that a child was one of the people who died.  I work with children every week, and children hold a very special place in my heart.  I know lots of little 8 year olds. My friend has an 8 year old daughter who runs and jumps into my arms every time she sees me.  To think that she could have been killed…it’s horrible and sobering.  And then a facebook friend posted this picture:

Thank you, Mr. Rogers.

So, we move forwards, and we help.  There will always be crazy bad people in the world who do bad things, but there will also be helpers.  I want to be a helper.  My BF had recently told me about a children’s charity for video gamers, so I looked it and a few others up.  Gamers, here’s how you can be a helper!

Extra Life Charity (My BF is doing this! If you would like to help sponsor him, you can here.)

From their website: “For the last four years, thousands of gamers have joined together annually to play for 24 hours for Extra Life – a gaming marathon in support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals®. Gamers rally friends and family members to sponsor their play. The funds they raise go to help save and improve the lives of kids at the CMN Hospital in their community.

Since 2008, our incredible players have raised more than 4 million dollars, and this year, on November 2nd, 2013 we believe they will outdo themselves yet again.

We’d like YOU to join our lifesaving fight.”

Child’s Play Charity

From their website: “Since 2003, we’ve set up and organized Child’s Play, a game industry charity dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in our network of over 70 hospitals worldwide. Over the years, you as a community have answered the call and come together to raise millions of dollars.

Child’s Play works in two ways. With the help of hospital staff, we set up gift wish lists full of video games, toys, books, and other fun stuff for kids. By clicking on a hospital location on our map, you can view that hospital’s wish list and send a gift.

Child’s Play also receives cash donations throughout the year. With those cash donations, we purchase new consoles, peripherals, games, and more for hospitals and therapy facilities. These donations allow for children to enjoy age-appropriate entertainment, interact with their peers, friends, and family, and can provide vital distraction from an otherwise generally unpleasant experience.”

Get Well Gamers Charity

From their website: “The Get-Well Gamers Foundation was founded in 2001 with the goal of bringing video game systems and games to children’s hospitals. Video games are an effective and proven pain management tool and provide needed entertainment during long hospital stays.

The Foundation currently serves dozens of children’s hospitals across the U.S. in an ever-expanding donation network that has already brought much-needed entertainment to hundreds of thousands of children each year. The Foundation services all kinds of hospitals, from small local facilities to larger regional medical centers. Although some of these hospitals are on the cutting edge of medical research, all too often their pediatrics units are lacking for entertainment options. The Foundation seeks to fill these gaps by providing hospitals with free video games, systems, and accessories.”

If everyone took even just one day of their week to be a ‘helper’ in some way, imagine what a wonderful place the world would be!

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How To Recolor Sprites in Gimp (A Very Simple Guide)

Ever wanted to change the color of a sprite character’s outfit, their eyes or  their hair? It’s very easy and simple to do using an art program (such as Gimp which is free) and even beginners can make nice color changes!  Follow along as I turn Elli’s dress from blue to pink:

1: Open up your sprite in Gimp and zoom in about 800%.  You want the sprite large enough that you can easily see the pixels.

2: Using the Select By Color Tool (it looks like a hand pointing to a bar colored blue, red and yellow and is generally in the top right hand corner of your toolbox) select the lightest color of the object you want to change.  It’s important to start with the lightest color as you can then easily darken the color bit by bit for the shading.

3: Using the Paintbucket tool, fill the selected areas in with the color of your choice.  You can quickly fill in all the areas by holding down Shift while selecting one of the highlighted areas – this will automatically fill them all.  While this is a great time saver, sometimes you will have to select each area individually if the color is used in other areas you want to leave as-is.

4: Using the Select by Color tool, select the next darkest area of the object you’re changing.  Then, using the color selector, pick a color that is darker than your original color.  Make sure it’s the equivalent darkness to the shade you are replacing – if it’s too light or too dark, it will look odd.

5: Repeat the process to fill in all the remaining shades until you have completely replaced the old color scheme with your new one.  The most important thing to remember is to match the shades that you’re replacing, otherwise the shape and shading will look off.

6: Zoom back to normal magnification and see how your sprite looks now.

7: There, she’s looking pretty good! Now I’m going to quickly repeat that whole process to change her bow to a more fitting color to match her dress:

8: Now let’s compare our original Elli next to her new version:

And there you have it! You can use this method to change any color on a sprite, but be aware that the more colors you are replacing, the more attention you have to pay to replacing the shades exactly.  Hair is one of the most difficult things to change because there is generally so many shades to replace and often the color of the hair is used elsewhere on the character, meaning you have to be careful exactly what you replace.  Elli has the same brown color of her hair outlining her face – changing her hair would be quite a project.  The easiest color to change is one that isn’t used elsewhere on the character – for example, Nami:

Her red hair is easy to change because the colors don’t blend into her face or outfit.  So it’s easy to make her, say, a blonde (with purple eyes, no less!):

Finally, remember to save your work often!  If you successfully change the color of a character’s shirt, save your work before you try to tackle another object.  That way if you mess up, you won’t have lost all your recoloring work.

A gamer’s best friend…

This reminds me of somebody I know…

How to quickly and easily crop an image in Gimp

In my many artistic/coding/digital endeavors, I find myself with that same old problem of wanting to use an image for something – but it has that nasty white space behind it! And usually the only method (that most people know) to remove it is to slowly crop it by hand.

I hate cropping pictures.

So I fiddled around in gimp and found a fantastically easy way to cheat at cropping! :D

To start, open your image up in gimp.  The image I’m using is Oracle from the game Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns.

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1. Go Layer > Transparency > Add Alpha Chanel.  Next, using the Magic Wand tool (circled in red below) select the white space around your image and delete it.  You’ll get rid of most of the white space.

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2. Now add a second layer to your project, move it under your image and fill it with black.  Ahhh, see all that nasty white residue still clinging to your character? Not what we want.

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3.  Using the Magic Wand tool again, select around your character, then go Select > Invert.  Next, go Select > Shrink and shrink the image by 1 pixel.

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4. Now go Select > Invert (again!) and then press delete  and unselect the image so you can get a good look at it.  Hey! All that white is gone from around the character! Pretty neat, huh? Here’s a comparison of before and after:

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5. Whoops, okay, so nearly all the white.  There’s a few spots that managed to sneak by:

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6. To get rid of these, you’ll have to use the Free Select Tool (looks like a little lasso by the Magic Wand) to select the areas, and then delete them.  Like so:

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7. Now remove the colored layer and save your image (make sure to save it as PNG to save the transparency!).  And here she is, all cleaned up and ready to go on any colored background you choose! :)

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New Coding Book! (and my latest coding project)

Ugh so I’ve been pretty sick with a horrible cough this last week, spent most of the weekend on the couch watching I Love Lucy and The Flying Nun (because I’m so hip!).  Feeling better, but still not 100%.

BUT I have a new coding book and I’m very excited! :D It’s HTML5 Games: Creating Fun with HTML5, CSS3, and WebGL
by Jacon Seidelin.  I can’t wait to start working on it, it looks fantastic.  I can’t believe how out-of-date my HTML knowledge has gotten (vintage 2008) and I only recently learned about all the new additions to HTML and CSS.  Canvas! ContentEditable! Audio! Smart phone support!  I mean, it’s so sci-fi now! ;)

I’ve been working on a text-based online roleplay  which is how I realized my coding was so out-of-date.  The RP is basically going to be a Harvest Moon fangame (no surprise there) and I was working on some code to make it more interactive than just players writing everything out.  Hopefully players will be able to milk their cows and grow multiple crops by the time I’m done :)  It’s going to be based in Tumblr and I’ll post more info on it as I get a better idea of what it’s going to be like.  Right now I can tell you it’s going to be based in a unique Harvest Moon village and have a central plot of saving the Harvest Goddess’ garden.

And now I have to get to work because it’s 8am Monday morning…

Time for a 3DS…

So you may know that I’ve been very happy with my first gen pearl pink DS that I’ve had for…like 7 years (my god, has it been that long???).  The new DS versions have never tempted me and I have been content playing my chunky old school DS.  But now the time has come to get a 3DS and I have two very good reasons why:

1. They now come in pearl pink.

2. Harvest Moon: A New Beginning (only for 3DS) was released on the 6th.

Seeing as I had a crazed Harvest Moon fan moment and PRE-ORDERED the game already (it was just shipped and will be here any day!) I now need a 3DS.  This is when having a gamer boyfriend at during the biggest gift-giving time of year comes in handy <3

So, seeing as I’ll be getting a 3DS pretty soon one way or another, I’ve been browsing what else it has to offer.  And wow, there are tons of games for it now!  Last time I browsed 3DS games it was last Christmas when I pre-ordered Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for my BF’s Christmas gifts (all of you who also pre-ordered them can laugh along with me at the fact that neither of these games have YET to be released even a year later! Seriously, WTH Nintendo?)

One of the 3DS features I’m most excited about is being able to download older gameboy games to it!  That is super cool, and I’m hoping to get to play a lot of old games I don’t have the consoles for anymore.

And I’ll finally be able to get some of those cute accessories that don’t work with my chunky first gen DS, like the Princess Peach Case!

Is that the cutest DS case or what? ;)

 

The Heart Of Video Games

(This post is dedicated to someone very special – my thoughts on why video games are and always will be worthwhile)

My very earliest memory of video games goes way, way back to about the time I was maybe four years old.  My parents had a large conversion van that had the luxury (the time being the early 90s) of having a TV installed in the roof for the back seat passengers to see. For reasons unknown to me, (maybe as  an attempt to keep me and my sister occupied on the long trips to see my grandparents) my parents hooked the TV up to a SNES console.  I can barely remember it at all except that I remember playing what I think was the only game we had for it – a game where you controlled a fighter and fought your way down street after street, knocking out bad guys.  I’m not 100% sure but I suspect that the game was called Street Fighter ll, an immensely popular game of the time.

My second game memory comes from the largest vacation my family has ever taken, back in 1998 when I was eight years old.  We stopped at a large fancy hotel and they had a video game system in the room.  I wasn’t, however, too interested in the little blue hedgehog running around the screen collecting rings and left my dad and brothers to play it, preferring to watch Brady Bunch reruns in the next room with my mom (sorry Sega!).

And then comes my first important video game memory of Christmas 2000 when we received our first real video game console, the lovely, wonderful, fantastic N64 when I was 10.  That aqua blue contraption started the influence of video games in our lives.  My siblings and I did everything together so it was natural that we did video games together as well.  We had classics such as Donkey Kong, Kirby Crystal Shards and Banjo & Tooie and despite the fact these were platformer games, we played them co-op, each night getting comfy on the lower bunk of my brothers blue bunk-bed that the TV had been set up to face as we took turns controlling the character on the screen.  If we weren’t playing tag-team platformers, we would put in a multi-player racing game or the mini games on Kirby (we loved those!). I can clearly remember those nights, and how some even included root beer floats and bags of Goldfish crackers (a favorite video game night snack for us).  We played that way for nearly three years.

 As time went by more video game consoles entered our house.  First a PS1 for which we had many more games than our N64, but for some reason we never played those games together like we did the N64 – though I did get plenty of game time in by myself playing games such as Disney’s Mulan, Barbie’s Winter Sports, Angelica’s Dress Up and (my fav) Harvest Moon Back to Nature.  The PS1 was eventually followed by a PS2, a console for which I personally don’t think any games of any importance were made – even Harvest Moon Save the Homeland was a flop.  After the PS2 came the Xbox when I was about 14 years old – another console that didn’t offer me much in the way of interesting games, but my sister discovered Knights of the Old Republic and fell in love.  For several months, each evening was spent with my siblings and I on the couch as Jen played the game (with our helpful input and suggestions of course).  The game was wonderfully made and despite the fact that Jen was the one officially playing the game, the rest of us had just as good of a time watching because the game was practically a movie with all the cut scenes, options and storyline.  And the ending was fantastic!  It was the first time since the N64 that all four of us had come together in such a way to play a game.

 Then came the Game Cube. I didn’t even know it existed until my little brothers came out of Gamestop proudly holding a purple console and a game called Lugi’s Mansion.  At first, I wasn’t that interested – after all, nothing that good had been on the PS2 or Xbox – but then I realized that just like the N64, the Game Cube had my kind of games on it.  I played through a great part of Lugi’s Mansion and an even greater part of Animal Crossing, and later Harvest Moon: Magical Melody.  But I also started to fall into a role of being what I like to call a “Back Seat Player”.  The people with the most interest in video games turned out to be me and my youngest brother and we ended up spending many hours on the couch together as I helped him play games such as Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Paper and Harvest Moon: Wonderful Life.  To date that was the best quality time I’ve ever been able to spend with my baby brother, who is five years younger than me.  Eventually, my brother’s interest in console video games waned, helped along by his interest in World War ll and a certain game known as COD.  I was 16 years old at the time.

COD however, turned out to have some interesting family value as well.  My brother convinced the entire family to play a game together and soon a ‘few rounds of COD’ became a nightly occurrence in my house.  We would shower and get in our Pjs, then I would serve up whatever dessert I had made earlier and we would get ready at our desks, our teamspeak headphones on as we battled our way across Europe.  I was a poor machine gunner and overall probably a poor fighter, but I was wicked good with a  sniper rifle!  Over time, another game, Age of Empires was added to our family nighttime gaming rounds.  This game was quieter and more peaceful, but ultimately ended up with somebody razing somebody else’s city.

Over time, the nightly games of COD and AGEs faded out, but like the video game traditions before them, another came to take it’s place: this time it was a new console called a Wii and the game was called Mario Kart.  My parents both adored this game and each evening was spent running through Mii-populated malls and throwing banana peels at each other.  My mother favored the Baby Peach character and I the Rosalina one.  My brothers switched often but Bowser and Mario often joined our races.  My dad, more often than not, was Yoshi. Mario Kart wasn’t the only Wii game that saw a lot of use, of course, but it was certainly a fav.

And finally, that brings us to today.  My family is now busier than we used to be and many things have changed.  My sister moved out, and work takes up a lot of our time.  But my brothers still like to play a few rounds of COD or Portal on their lunch breaks, and I’ve found a new gaming love called Webkinz.  But that the old home console still sees the light of day.  On our living room TV stand is a PS3 that was last played maybe a year ago and now lives only to serve as a DVD player.  But a Wii and a N64 (yes, a N64!) sit beside it and I now keep them running.  My greatest video game love has and probably always will be the Harvest Moon series and I have the goal of playing each game in order.  I’ve still got a long way to go, but most evenings find me on the couch working my way through another crop or wooing.  My family enjoys my gaming and the tranquil farming music is often our background at dinner time.  My mom’s favorite part of the day is settling on the couch beside me, coffee in hand and watching me go about my farming.  She tells me it’s calming and a nice way to end her day.  More often than not my dad will join us.  I suppose in the busy, stressful pace we live our lives now my folks being able to slow down and watch peaceful game play is restful.  I’m sure they also get a chuckle out of seeing their daughter, nearly 22 years old now, with my pink note binder in my lap, carefully marking down crop notes and other important game facts.

Many people consider ‘gamers’ to be people who play MMORPGs or other expensive, often violent games, who are almost always male and usually reclusive and nerdy.  And for many people, that is what they see when they see a video game console.  But I don’t think that’s what keeps the video game industry alive.  What keeps the industry alive is people like me, people with warm fuzzy memories of playing their first game in a booster seat in the family van, or of laying on the bottom bunk while you fought your brother for first place in Mickey’s Speedway, or spending hours of cooperative play with your siblings to save the day and princess.  As time goes by and technology grows at an alarming rate, video game makers scramble to get the best graphics, the best sound track, the best whistles and bells and whatever else will make their game ‘be the best’ while stealing plots and stories from books and movies and best selling games from the 90s.  The best isn’t about looks or pretty packaging.  It’s creating an experience that players cannot get from watching a movie or reading a book or even playing a board game.  And it is delivering that experience in such a way that people will still be replaying it decades from now.  And making it something that people can enjoy together!  I’ve logged in hundreds of hours of solo video game playing but the ones I remember are the times I played with my family.  And most of those games were ones that were only for one player, but the family still gathered to ‘help’ play it.  Games have, and always will be, a social thing.  The ‘gamers’ who play by themselves in their dark basements are still playing with others though they might be miles away.  Despite popular belief, there is nothing reclusive or solitary about the all mighty video game.

How to quickly fix a Nintendo 64 AV cable with a bad connection

I am waist deep in Harvest Moon N64, having recently just started my first winter.  However my N64 is old and cranky and since I dragged it out of the dark comfort of it’s storage box, it’s been throwing a fit whenever I move it around too much.  The problem is with the AV cable connecting to the console – the connection is shaky because of the old cable and unless the cable is wiggled just right, I don’t get any video or audio on the screen.  First couple of times it went out on me I was able to patiently sit by it, slowly wiggling the cable until the connection was finally made.  But day before yesterday I did a good cleaning of the TV stand (you know, the annual dust bunny hunt) and moved the N64.  The cable lost it’s delicate connection and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get it to reconnect.

Enter my ever resourceful dad, who happened to see me trying to get the cable to work.  After I explained the problem, he went to the bathroom, grabbed the can of Vaseline and – after assuring me it wouldn’t hurt my console or cause it to rust – smeared a bit on the inside of the AV cable head (the part that plugs into the N64).  He plugged it back in, turned it on and voila!  The screen was alive with the wonderful sight and sound of Harvest Moon!  And I have yet to have any problems with it.

If you’re wondering how that fixed the problem, the Vaseline acts like an extender to the plug, letting the…prongs…wires, whatever you would call them, connect properly once more.  My dad has assured me it won’t bother my N64 though I’m sure it will probably collect dirt eventually and be hard if not impossible to clean.  But as a quick fix instead of having to hunt down a new cable online, it’s a good solution that seems to be working well.

Harvest Moon and Crochet

I love this! It’s a scan of an old promo for Harvest Moon 64; I found it on vintagecomputing.com

I’ve been pretty obsessed with Harvest Moon lately – I suppose because I just finished the SNES game, and I’m excited to be playing the N64 game again (I’ve played it several times but only once came close to finishing it – then the season before my farm was to be judged all my cows got sicks so I failed that…).  The N64 game has a lot of nostalgia for me because it’s the first Harvest Moon game I ever played, back when I was only 10 years old.  I’ve just started the first fall season of the game!  I’m also considering posting some of my many game notes on the Harvest Moon games I’ve played…however I may start a different, Harvest Moon-only blog to do that on.  I’ll have to see.

Other than playing Harvest Moon, I’ve been super busy with several children events I volunteer to do crafts for.  I’m a regular volunteer in the children ministry at my church and we just finished a weekend camp for the kids – I’m still recovering, lol! I’ve been prepping for these events for nearly a month so I haven’t had much time to work on my own arts and craft projects.  I’m also right in the midst of starting a local crochet club, so I’ve been prepping stuff for that.  I haven’t crocheted anything but granny squares for a while, but I’m hoping to get back to working on some amigurumi soon.  I really liked how my Game Boy color came out and want to make crocheted versions of all the Nintendo hand helds, just not sure which one to start next.  Right now it’s a toss up between the original Game Boy or the Game Boy Advance.   The Game Boy Advance will probably win out as I have fond memories of playing it (okay, so it actually wasn’t mine, it was my sister’s that I put more hours on than she did) but the biggest problem is that I haven’t found a yarn I like – especially as the Game Boy Advance I remember was a semi-clear fuchia model!  I suppose I could do it in white or that purpley-blue color…will have to see..

The Wonderful Nintendo 64

I am pleased to say I have finally finished Harvest Moon SNES!  My goal is to play all (well, almost all) of the Harvest Moon games in order, so I’ve already started Harvest Moon N64.  It made me realize how long it’s been since I played a game with a controller that wasn’t wireless!  I played the SNES game on the Wii Virtual Console, but as Nintendo doesn’t plan to release the N64 game on the Virtual Console anytime soon (they said there’s some problem with porting it, I don’t know the specifics), my only option to play the game is on our old N64.

First off, let me say that I adore the N64 – it’s my favorite console.  Period.  The N64 we currently have is actually the third one my family has owned.  We received our first (a lovely aqua blue model) for Christmas of 2000; when that console gave out from too much playing it was replaced (around 2004, I think) with a black model we picked up at a garage sale.  That one didn’t last very long.  Finally I bought the model we have currently (also aqua blue in reminiscent of our first) off eBay as a family Christmas gift in 2008.  However, it’s old, been used and knocked around too much, and has a tendency to be cranky so saving your game often is very necessary, lol.

I’ve realized how spoiled playing my Wii has made me – I’m used to settling back on the couch with the wireless nunchuk, and as long as the cat doesn’t stand in front of the sensor, I’ve got no problem.  The N64’s remote has a…5 foot, I think, long cord.  Our couch is about 7 feet away from the TV stand and the place where I plug the N64 in.  So I either have to sit on the edge of the couch (leaning forwards) or on the floor.  We have tile floor btw.  Funny how I used to play N64 and PS1 for hours upon hours and never noticed that the corded remote was bothersome.

But short cords aside, my biggest problem at the moment is our worn out controllers (generic no less – we used to have official Nintendo controllers but they’ve been lost over the years), which don’t have the sensitivity anymore to make playing Harvest Moon easy – watering and hoeing are very difficult as I can’t line up my character properly.  So, I’m out to buy a new controller! Which isn’t as easy as you would think.  It’s very easy to pick up a new generic N64 controller but I don’t WANT a generic controller – I don’t think they last very long and aren’t that durable.  Sure maybe it’s okay for playing Mario Party or Kirby’s Crystal Shards where you don’t need much more than the A and B buttons, but I’m settling in to play Harvest Moon until finished – it will take several weeks and I don’t want to waste in-game day time trying to water one square of soil.  So the only thing to do is go with the original and hunt down a new Nintendo licensed controller.  And these are not easy to find.  I think I’ve found one that will work on eBay so I’ll have to wait and see.

While hunting for a controller on eBay, I ran across yet another item to add to my ‘Must Have’ list:

It’s a Pikachu N64!!  I’m already in love; I so have to get this.  I’ve been thinking of getting a new (as in, brand new factory sealed) N64 eventually, and have decided that when I splurge on that, this is the new console I’ll be getting.   I have several other things that come first on my splurge list (namely a serger sewing machine and new dress form) so this will have to wait a while.  There appear to be two versions – a version that simply comes with a controller and the console, and a Toys R Us exclusive (pictured above) that comes with lots of cool extras, including a game.  I want the Toys R Us one, so I’ll have to see if I can hunt down one still factory sealed.  As it’s a collector’s item that’s actually not going to be too hard :)

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