Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Andreas Raab


Andreas Raab was my best friend.

Andreas loved to challenge me to express and exceed my abilities. In so doing, he forced me to challenge him. We pushed each other up the tallest mountains where, together, we had the honor of viewing the world from a new point of view.

He loved to program. He was the best programmer I have ever known – by a lot. This is not an idle statement – I have known and worked with the best in the world. Andreas was better.

He loved exploring and understanding new systems. He was fearless. He would not only understand how to use the new tool to accomplish his task, he would also figure out how to make it even better for the next person.

Andreas loved to make great things for people to use. He was never content with “good enough”. Every line of code he wrote was an opportunity to teach someone a new idea. Every system he built greatly empowered the person willing to embrace it and it allowed them a new freedom to create and explore.

He loved beer and introduced me to some fantastic brews. Learning to drink from a German is a valuable skill.

He loved to violently explore ideas. We had many loud discussions –often at a bar, where we threw ideas back and forth like rag dolls. Most ideas did not survive. The ones that did were very strong.  He was as intent a listener as he was a proponent, and often succeeded in convincing himself he was wrong. He certainly convinced me he was right more often than not.

He loved food and was as essential a partner in exploring great restaurants as he was in exploring ideas.  We visited Canto do Brasil in San Francisco every weekend we could and always had two (three?) Caiparinhas each and the Feijoada. And of course, the steak at Angus Barn… (yes, he was jealous when we went without him).

He loved language – he was always searching for how to express an idea in English with just the right word or phrase. He loved coding in the same way. He loved exploring the subtleties and power of how ideas could be expressed, communicated and unleashed.

Andreas loved classical music. We carpooled to work every day and he always had the radio on the classical station when he picked me up. We challenged each other on what the piece was, who the composer was, and even who the performers were. It was probably the only thing I was better at than him.

Andreas loved his friends. There were no conditions or requirements. He worked to see the world from their perspective – honoring them by always caring enough to understand them. He also expected them to live up to his high standards of thought, action, caring and love.

Andreas loved Kathleen. He was always a positive person, but he glowed from the moment he met her. He loved her more than anything else in his life. She completed his world and he completed hers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Teleplace CEO

Tony Nemelka has just been named CEO of Teleplace and I couldn't be more pleased. I have had a number of discussions with him and some of the exceptional people he is bring with him since he started working with the company, and I am really impressed with his vision for the direction for the business and the clear focus he has on customer value. I am very proud that the company has been able to attract someone of Tony's caliber to be the CEO. No question that the company was ready for this next step. Greg Nuyens did an exceptional job positioning the company technically - Teleplace is the best collaboration platform in the world today, by quite a wide margin. Now it is time to leverage that technical advantage into a market advantage as well.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chief Innovation Officer

About three months ago, I joined Lockheed Martin STS as their Chief Innovation Officer. I have been wanting to pursue a project that was quite different from the direction that Teleplace has been going, and after about a year of discussion, it was clear that the direction I wanted to go and what Lockheed Martin was looking for fit extremely well.

It is too early to talk about what I will be doing, but if it works the way I think it should, it could have some very big results and may have an impact on everyone someday. I can tell you it is a very different world inside of a big company - there is still a requirement to be entrepreneurial and sell the ideas, but once a big company like this gets behind it, the resources available are simply amazing.

More to come for sure...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Palm Pixi Rox

I just bought a new phone, and it wasn't an iPhone, but it is still very cool. I have been planning to buy an iPhone as my next communication device - all my friends have one. I am very glad that they no longer feel the urge to demonstrate how cool they are by showing me some stupid picture or new app on their iPhone - except for Frank, of course.

So why didn't I buy an iPhone? Well, it is a bit complicated. My family has five phones with Sprint. I actually had a Rumor, which is a pretty good texting phone, but not much use for anything else. I was reasonably happy with it, though the blue-tooth quality was pretty poor. It was not too useful in California - unless you are married to the governator. Sprint is pretty good for quality of reception, but I always thought the selections of their phones sucked. A few years ago, I decided I needed a Blackberry and tried to upgrade at Sprint. Believe it or not, they would not sell me one. They only sold them to businesses. Morons. I did buy a Blackberry from someone else and carried two phones. I dropped the Blackberry after a while, because I realized I could almost always check my email with my MacBook, even when I was traveling.

So why the new phone? Somehow, I must have either dropped or stepped on my Rumor. I had made two or three phone calls earlier in the day from my office. I put it in my pocket and went downstairs to talk to my wife and while I was talking to her I received another call. I took the phone out and pressed the answer button and then saw that it had a big crack in the center of the screen. Worse, the voice quality on the other end was totally garbled - like some sort of electronica convolution filter. It was basically toast. I needed my phone to work this week, as there are many things going on in my life (that I will be writing about soon) so whether I liked it or not, I had to go visit the Sprint store for a replacement.

When I got there I had a few nice surprises - first the selections of phones was not terrible. In fact it was getting interesting. No iPhone of course - this wasn't AT&T, but they had an Android phone and yes, they finally were offering Blackberries to real people, and a they had the new Palm WebOS-based phones. I was interested in the Google phone, but a friend of mine had just bought one and was trying to take some pictures in the bright sunlight. The screen was unusable. Also it was kind of big and bulky - sort of like what the old Soviet Union might build if they were trying to make an iPhone knock-off.

What really caught my eye was the Palm Pixi. It is the smaller and slightly cheaper brother to the Palm Pre (which had the very strange commercials last year). I like small phones, as I already carry too much hardware in my pockets. The Pixi was actually smaller than my old Rumor (which really wasn't that small) and it was a real smart phone. Better yet, Sprint was offering a hell of a data plan where my family's monthly costs, which did not include data, would actually drop with the new plan which did include it. The phone was $200 with a $100 rebate - including a new two year contract, but now, even that was pro-rated. Sprint is definitely getting aggressive.

So now the review of the Pixi. In a nutshell, it is terrific.

Here is a list of pros followed by cons:

Pros
- Setup was trivial. The guy at the Sprint store did most of the work and I had a working phone with all my contact info when I walked out.
- The phone perfectly integrates with Gmail, which is my main email connection these days. It pulled all of my contact info into the phone and I was immediately reading the most recent emails.
- It supports Google Calendar, which my wife and I share. And it issued calendar alerts. Very nice.
- It is quite small, but the built in thumb-keyboard is quite usable. It took a little getting used to, but it works fine and has a nicer feel than my Blackberry or my earlier RIM device. I do love the size - it is quite thin and feels very nice in my hands.
- Sprint's wireless network performance is great. I was at a Starbuck's with a friend of mine and wanted to show him a video I had posted to YouTube. He tried to access it with his iPhone, but I had it running on the Pixi well before he even had an connection. He never did get it to work, but he was using the AT&T network and not the local Wi-Fi.
- Web browsing works pretty good, given the size of the screen. Certain sites, like Boing Boing are excellent, because they have a mobile version automatically loaded. Amazon was a bit crappy, surprisingly.

Cons
- The text is too small, especially for us old guys.
- The sound volume is not quite loud enough, even with it maxed out.
- When I called my mother, she said the sound quality on her end was echo-y, like I was far away from the phone.
- I tried to read a PDF document using the included Adobe reader app, but it didn't word wrap, so this was basically a lost cause. Seriously - if I zoom into a document using PDF, you really need to provide an option to wrap the text so I don't have to scroll left and right.
- Camera quality is poor. Good enough for a random picture now and then, but it won't replace my Casio Exilim.
- Takes a long time to charge (maybe 4-5 hours?)
- Charge lasts about 3 days with use. Since it was a new phone, I probably did more with it than I normally will in the future, so this probably caused the battery to drain quickly.
- Some apps re-orient based on the orientation of the phone. Others don't.
- It really needs a search app that has instant access.

Overall, this is a great non-Android Google phone. It is really nice how cleanly and easily it interfaces with my Google life. And I love the size. It is really quite elegant. It has only been three days now, so let's see how it holds up over the next few months.

As an aside, I had a rental car last week - a Ford Flex. This included the Microsoft Sync software. I might comment more on this later, but short answer - it was terrible. I actually liked the car (more of an SUV actually), but this software was really opaque. After linking it to my now sadly demised phone via BlueTooth I could not figure out how to get to the phone interface to make a call. I nearly had an accident trying to figure this thing out. I never did figure out how to use the built-in GPS for directions. Luckily I had my Garmin Nuvi with me. Sync is Bad Bad Bad. If anyone from Ford is reading this - I did like the Flex, but will never buy anything with Sync installed.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Virtus Walkthrough

I just posted the video I made of Virtus Walkthrough. I created this in 1990 with David Easter and Mark Uland. I am actually demonstrating Virtus 4 here. Scott Haynes was responsible for this version, and I think it is the best version of Walkthrough we ever did. It was also, unfortunately the last. The overall design and interaction is almost identical to the original 1990 version, though. This is using a software renderer that I wrote and was greatly enhanced by the team led by Greg Rivera. It uses portals extensively, and though you won't notice it, it does not actually have a z-buffer. The objects are sorted using a kind of BSP thing I did that is extremely fast. I am actually running this on Parallels on an older Macbook, and it feels faster to me than Sketchup 7.1, which I run native. But of course, considering that this had to run in real time on sub-20 mHz 68010 and 68020 machines, this had to be pretty damn fast to work at all.

This is the system I first prototyped the virtual collaboration space in that I showed to Alan Kay. This led to the development of ICE (see previous post), OpenSpace, the Croquet Project, and Teleplace.

Virtus Walkthrough won many awards, including the very first Breakthrough Product of the Year from MacUser Magazine, and the PC Computing Best Drawing Program, where we beat Adobe Photoshop.

Here is the demo:

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Colony Walkthrough

Searching through my digital archives, I found the following walkthough for "The Colony". Not terribly useful anymore, but it will give you an idea of the depth of the game. This walkthrough was written 20 years ago...

"The Colony" Revealed

Copyright © 1989 by David A. Smith


GETTING STARTED

Where am I?
You are on the DAS cruiser on the bridge. You have just crash landed on the colony planet 5-DELTA-5.
Why is everything so dark and nothing seems to be working?
The ships reactor is out; you need to turn on the emergency power.
How do I use the console?
Run into it.
Why does the right button of the bridge console blow up the ship?
That is not its intention.
How do I turn on the emergency power?
Press the left button on the bridge console.
I can't open the airlock.
You must unlock it using the decoder and the console directly to the left of the airlock. Don't forget to press the "E" (Enter) key after entering the code. Unlocking it does not open it. You still need to press the +/- button on the airlock door.
When I go out the second airlock door I die.
Did you close the first door behind you first?
How do you close the inner door once inside the airlock?
Simply turn around and run into the airlock door again (the one you just came through) and press the +/- button.
Yes, I closed the inside airlock door. I still die.
Are you wearing your power spacesuit?
How do I put on my power spacesuit?
Use the power spacesuit installer.
What is that?
That is the strange looking device you see as you come down the stairs. Run into it and set your armor and weapons power levels.




I die when I go into the room on the lower level just to the left of the stairway.
Don't go in that room, it is a holding cell for prisoners (you are a Space Marshall remember?), you were standing on an electrified security grid on the floor.
What's wrong with the spaceship?
The reactor core has been damaged.
How do I fix the reactor?
You need to visit the colony first.

ON THE PLANET SURFACE

What are the pyramid shaped objects all over the planet surface?
These are "natural occurring rock formations".
How many 'bug' creatures are there?
There are an infinite number of creatures on the surface of the planet.
I keep getting killed when I fight them.
Then don't fight them.
They chase me.
You can run faster than they can.
Even if I don't fight the creatures I do not last very long on the planet surface.
See Power Spacesuit.

FINDING THE COLONY

Where is the colony?
It is outside of the ship.
It is underground.
The entrance looks like a large box with a door in it.
It is not far.
You can see both the colony and your spaceship when you are directly between them.
Go north-east from the space ship.

POWER SPACESUIT

I found the power spacesuit installer but I can't get it to work. Nothing happens when I run into it.
The emergency power needs to be on before the installer will work.
Why do I die so quickly, even when I use the heavy armor and weapons?
The power spacesuit drains your energy in proportion to the level you set it at. The heavier your setting the faster the drain. When all of your energy is gone you are dead.
What is the meaning of the power suit scale on the left of the screen?
This indicates the energy levels of you weapons, armor and life force. When the life force level reaches zero you are dead.
What kind of scale does it use?
It is logarithmic. For example, the lowest bar is equal to 1, then next up is 2 or more, then 4 or more, then 8,16,32,...

INSIDE THE COLONY

I found the colony but when I try to open the inside airlock door I died.
See GETTING STARTED.
Once inside the colony, just past the airlock, there is a door that is always blocked. What's on the other side?
You don't need to know yet.
I keep running out of energy, how can I raise my energy levels?
Eat the small "eggs" of the creatures. These are energy pods that will hatch later but when they are in the dormant state your power spacesuit can absorb the energy they contain.
What are these creatures inside the colony?
Search for the Conference Room on level 1. There you will find some interesting information on the different alien types and their capabilities.

EGGS

Where do the "eggs" come from?
From the creatures. They are actually dormant creatures that may "hatch" at any time. Note that most creatures can lay eggs but only of the same type. The queens can lay any type of egg.
What are they good for?
Your power spacesuit can actually absorb the energy they contain, at the same time destroying the creature that would normally be hatching from it. Note that different eggs help your power ratings in different ways, compare the eggs shapes to your power suit display.

REACTORS

How do I fix the reactor on the spaceship?
The reactor core is damaged, it needs to be replaced.
Where can I get a new reactor core?
Somewhere inside the colony.
How do I get to the reactor core?
You need to lower the core from the ceiling. Use the console in front of the reactor.
What are the codes I need to enter at the console to lower the reactor cores?
The code for the ship reactor is inside a desk on the ship.
The code for the colony reactor is inside a desk in the colony.
Where is the code for the colony reactor?
On level 1.
I tried to retrieve the colony reactor core and tote it to the ship. Succeeded admirably. But when I lowered it to the floor prior to switching it with the ship's reactor core, guess what? It disintegrated. Poof! No more colony reactor.
The only place that you can put the reactor core without breaking it is inside a reactor (either one).
Then how do I put the colony reactor core in the ship's reactor?
You need to have already taken out the ship's reactor core!

TELEPORTERS

Where are the teleporters?
On level 4 and in Lab A.
I can not get any of the teleporters to work, what do I need to do?
Keep looking for other teleporters.
I found the teleporters in Lab A but can't move them anywhere to make use of their capabilities.
You need a forklift.
What is the order of the teleporters in Lab A?
1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, and 4 to nowhere!
How are the teleporters going to help me play the game?
If you manage to get them to strategic locations, you will be able to make many effortless trips (such as between your ship and the colony) with the various objects you need to successfully complete the game.
If I'm inside the forklift and try to enter a teleporter, the forklift thinks I want to lift the teleporter.
Try picking up something else (a box is usually handy) with the forklift before entering the teleporter.
If I'm in the forklift and want to pick up a transporter WITHOUT entering it...how is that done?
Teleporters and forklifts work this way:

1. You can enter a teleporter if you are not inside a forklift.
2. If you are in a forklift and you are carrying an object (such as a
box) you will also enter the teleporter.
3. If you are not carrying any objects with the forklift you
will pick up the teleporter with the forklift.

The reason for this is simply that the user interface was much simpler
to build and understand. The alternative was to have the user answer
a dialog about whether he/she wished to enter or lift the teleporter.
I did not want to have a dialog box anywhere in Colony (except for
saving games of course). This was to keep the game as natural as
possible. In this case the forklift is allowed to make the decision
for you.

Similarly, a number of things are the way they are to make the game players life easier. I would have preferred all doors to be opened AND closed by the game player but this gets tedious quickly. So the compromise is the airlock. A number of things are the way they are to make the game players life more miserable but that is the nature of these things.

FORKLIFT

Where is the forklift?
In the colony.
On level 5.
In storage room 5.
What is it good for?
It can carry large objects.
What large objects?
Teleporters, cryogenic chambers, boxes, and reactor cores.
I have trouble getting out of the forklift sometimes.
The forklift will not let you exit if there is an object directly
behind you (something about not allowing two objects to occupy the
same space at the same time). It will also not allow you to exit
into a wall. This may seem slightly random until you start considering
exactly what is around you. Remember this game takes place in 360
degrees. Just because you can't see an object does not mean that it is not there.
I have trouble dropping objects sometimes.
The forklift drops the object in the square you are in. Since only one object can occupy a square, you (and the forklift) get pushed back a square. However if there is something behind you ( wall, post, alien, etc), it appears to drop it but doesn't. You can tell because the forklift thinks it is still carrying the object (which it is) and the object is not sitting in front of you ready to be picked up again.
The forklift can not go upstairs.
That's right.
How do I get the forklift up the stairs to the colony airlock?
There is another way to the airlock that does not use stairs.
Can the forklift go outside?
Yes.
Does the forklift protect me from the creatures shooting?
Not at all, in fact you can not even shoot back while inside!

CRYOGENIC CHAMBERS

How many cryogenic chambers are there?
There are 6 of them.
Where are the cryogenic chambers?
Level 1 - 1
Level 2 - 0
Level 3 - 1
Level 4 - 2
Level 5 - 1
Level 6 - 1
Can you be a little more specific?
The first cryogenic chamber is in the security area on level 1. Be careful of the security grid as you make your way to it. It is in the upper part of the level 1 map.
The second chamber is on level 3. It is actually near the stairs located in the upper right hand corner but you need to go through apartment 33 to get to it. It is through the door behind the dining room table.
The next two chambers are on level 4. One is located inside of Lab 1 at the lower right of the map but you need to be pretty strong to get across all of the security grids that you will encounter on the way. Don't forget that you need to come back the same way. The next one is located in the maze found in the lower left. Just follow the map to be safe, you may make a wrong turn and wind up in the Dave Bowman memorial room.
The next chamber is found on level 5. It is in the very center of the maze in the lower left of the level 5 map. See STRANGE ROOMS AND MAZES for more information. You can get out of it if you do not go into the same room as the cryogenic chamber is in, however, then you can not rescue that child. Something to think about.
The last chamber is found on level 6. It is also in a maze (see the level 6 map) that starts behind a column after you have gone down one level of stairs from level 5.

STRANGE ROOMS AND MAZES

Is there a way out of the David Bowman suite?
Niy,ha,ha,...There is no way out of the David Bowman Suite. Yes, you have fallen into my trap! You will be in there FOREVER!!!!!
(or at least until you load the game you saved right before entering it.....)
I am lost in the Level 5 maze. I feel like I am going around and around in circles.
Yes, you probably are. You can sometimes use the pattern of eggs in each room to map out the maze. Or use boxes and the forklift.
I still can't figure out the Level 5 maze!
This maze is actually a 5X5 set of 3X3 rooms that folds in on itself.
I just got into the room with the cryogenic chamber in the maze on Level 5. I have the forklift to carry the cryogenic chamber but I can't get out of the room! There is no door!
You need to carry a teleporter in with you to teleport out again with the cryogenic chamber.
If you go east five squares from the east elevator on Level 5, you can look east across a vent grid into another area, but I never found an access point to that area. Am I missing something, or is there really no way to get there?
The vent grid area that you referred to is actually a joke. I thought that I would create this really interesting room that no one could ever get to thus creating a great mystery. Turned out that Peter Sills of Mindscape figured out a way to get into that room so I guess the joke is on me.
I can't seem to get into Lab 1 on Level 4...the security grids suck me dry before I can get anywhere.
You need to be pretty strong to get by this. Also try going very quickly through these corridors, the less time you spend on them the better.
On Level 4, just around the corner from the elevators is a door that leads to an infinite corridor that also contains a security grid. Does it lead anywhere?
No, it simply wraps on itself.

QUEENS

What happens when I kill a queen on a level?
Almost all of the creatures on that level revert to eggs. Munch, munch. Keep in mind that once you have done this and have already eaten all the eggs on this level you may wind up starving yourself to death.
I have located the Prime Queen at the reactor, but everytime I get through the security grid and attempt to attack - I'M DEAD.
Although she can be destroyed if you are strong enough, ask yourself, "is that really what I want to do with the next few hours of my life?".

END GAME

I have six frozen kids on my ship. I have a new reactor core. I killed the Prime Queen. What the heck do I do now? I am really lost. I can't get the ship to take off. I'm getting old. Help, please!
Go to the main console on the bridge of the space ship and press the bar on the far right. This will take you into orbit.
How do I blow up the colony without blowing up myself with it?
Use the planet smasher, remember the button on the bridge console that tends to self destruct? Remember it is the button on the right!

MISCELLANEOUS

The aliens get stronger the further you descend into the colony. This is due
to the proximity to both the Prime Queen and the central reactor. Also, the
eggs laid by the creatures get more potent as well.

Medium and Heavy Weapons use more energy than light! On the first couple of levels the energy you are picking up per egg is relatively weak and does not lend a lot of power to the weapons and armor you are carrying. However, as light weapons and armor use significantly less power, a little can go a long way.

It takes less energy to kill the aliens on the higher levels. You can "overkill" the aliens on level 1 for example if you were using heavy weapons. Sort of like using 10 sticks of TNT when one will do.

Don't duke it out with the aliens if you do not have to!!! We won't think you're a coward if you just run for it.

THE STORY OF THE COLONISTS

Many research scientists, military personnel and other professionals (along with their families) lived here. The purpose of the colony was to conduct teleportation research. The risks involved in this sort of pioneering work warranted the isolated location. It was classified just how much progress had been made, but it was known that a prototype teleportation system was in the works. The scientists closest to the project knew, however, just how far they had come. They had successfully transported objects and, yes, people with no adverse effects. It was actually possible to short-cut space and time!
But then unexplainable things started occuring. First it was noticed that rooms and walls in some parts of the colony were warping. Colonists would go out a door on one level and emerge on another. Corridors became labyrinthine. Rooms became exitless. And then strange creatures were sighted. There was speculation that these creatures had been either created by, or emerged from another dimension because of, the teleportation experiments.
It was also quickly realized that these creatures were dangerous. Every possible measure was taken. The experiments were stopped. Colonists tried desperately to fight back. They were largely unsuccessful, but discoveries were made about the nature of the creatures' existence: if they were shot at enough, instead of being killed they reverted to a pure energy form.
Eventually, the colonists realized that it was hopeless. They sent out a distress call, and used the few cryogenic chambers they had to keep the children out of danger. All they could do was pray that somehow, someone would come and discover the horrors that had happened, rescue their precious children and destroy the results of their hasty research.

THE WALKTHROUGH

TRUST ME... it's really an easy game... heh heh ...

Note that the following is to be used only as an example solution to "The Colony". There are many other ways to complete the game!

5-DELTA-5 REPORT
2/11/57

After crash landing on the planet where colony 5-DELTA-5 is located, I slowly regained consciousness. I realized that my reactor core was damaged. So was my memory. I did remember to press the left button on the bridge console (instead of the right, which would have been an instant disaster!). I went downstairs to the power spacesuit installer and, since my energy reserves were low, installed my suit at lowest levels for both weapons and armor.

"So far so good" I thought to myself as I used the security console to the left of the airlock to unlock the airlock control button. I entered the corresponding code from my decoder, pressed the "E" button (for "Enter") and went to the airlock, pressed the now unlocked +/- button and stepped through. I almost forgot to go back to the inside door to close it again, but once that was done I opened the outside airlock door and stepped out onto the planet.

BANG! Something shot at me! I looked around and saw a squat giant bug like creature coming straight at me. It was obvious that this was no friendly hello so I ran away from it as fast as I could go. Since I didn't know where the entrance to the colony was and since I didn't want to get lost, I kept the ship in sight as I circled it, trying to keep away from the creature and all of his friends at the same time.

I finally saw the entrance directly north-east of the ship and ran to it with the creatures close behind. If these things were indicative of what I was to find inside of the colony, I was in real trouble! I got to the colony and found, much to my relief, that the airlock door was open and that the airlock was the same model type as the one on the spaceship.

I went inside, closed the airlock behind me and turning around noticed a large pyramidal shaped creature eyeing me suspiciously. It didn't eye long for it immediately began an attack. Since I was not in any position to run now all I could do was shoot back. After about two or three shots the creature shuddered and actually began to shrink. I went up to it to study the remains a little closer and when I went too near my power spacesuit began to whir and the collapsed creature disappeared! I checked my power levels and noted that all of them had increased, which was useful because I was very near a terminal condition when I found the entrance to the colony. So these creatures, or at least their remains, were useful after all.

Entering the inside airlock door, I noticed a door on the other side of the room. I tried to go through it but there was something on the other side blocking the entrance. Turning around, I noticed the stairs and went down these instead. I looked around this area, saw a hallway leading from the stairs and, double doors leading to an auditorium. I went down the hallway and made a right turn. I found an office at the end of this corridor and inside it in the lower left drawer, found a reactor code of the same type I kept in my desk on the ship. "Great", I thought to myself, "They have the same kind of reactor as I use on my ship, all I have to do is borrow theirs to get things working again!".

I didn't have long to rejoice about my good fortune because another one of the creatures came up behind me and started blasting. This one was just like the previous except that he was kind of upside down. I dispatched with him, and this time decided to examine the little beastie. After a short time the collapsed creature began to shudder again and then it grew back to its full size. Knowing what to expect this time I shot it down to size again and this time stopped to let my suit suck up the remains.

I went out of the office back into the hall and saw yet another creature, looking away from me. This one was diamond shaped. As I watched it I saw it actually lay a miniature carbon copy of itself. "So the collapsed creatures are actually eggs!" I said to myself. Not waiting for an invitation from the creature I started blasting away at it. This time instead of shrinking away it just blew up! I guess that since it was standing on one of its eggs it had no where to go. I ran to the newly laid egg and feasted my suit on it. Things were definitely improving!

Further down the hall I saw a cafeteria on one side and a conference room on the other. Inside the conference room on the table I found a slide projector. Turning it on, I flipped through the slides while the voice over told me all about what I was up against. Looked like there was going to be a tough battle ahead.

I walked back out into the hall and needless to say I ran into even more of the creatures and their eggs. I avoided the creatures because I didn't feel like my suit was up to the fight but the eggs were delicious, thank you. After a little of this, my power spacesuit was beginning to look healthier. I just had to make sure that I ate as many eggs as I could.

I came to the elevators next. I decided to explore this level a little more and build up my strength before I went down there. In my exploration of level one I found a library, a storage area, and a security area. One thing I didn't find was people. Not even any bodies. That is until I came to the first cell in the security area. There inside was a cryogenic chamber. Not only that, but it was occupied. A couple of creatures were hanging around so I took care of them. The cryochamber had a note warning not to open it up so I had to figure out a way to get this thing back to the ship intact. Well, it would have to wait until later.

I went back to the elevators, and took one to level 2. As soon as I stepped off I ran into the biggest eyeball I had ever seen. I thought it might be one of the kid's balloons until it fired at me. I shot back. This one was a little tougher than the creatures on level one. In fact all of the creatures were a bit nastier. I could hardly wait till I got to the bottom level.

This was an apartment level. Nothing really useful that I could find. There weren't any cryochambers here. Just a lot of empty beds and a school. Very depressing. I did run into a queen. Very nasty thing. I nearly lost it all here. A number of other creatures were standing around, looking pretty disinterested in the battle. They are not very smart. When I did kill the queen, she didn't shrink like the others, she just blew up. When she was gone all of the other creatures seemed to lose the will to live also and they collapsed to their egg state. Needless to say, this did wonders for my ego and my power spacesuit.

The next level was another apartment level. Here I found another cryochamber in apartment 33. I could also tell that things were beginning to get weird. I went through a closet door and found myself on another level at one point. The creatures must have had something to do with it.

The next level was the lab area. Here I found a number of labs with partially working teleporters. They didn't look particularly safe so I stayed away from them. I did find another cryochamber in Lab 1, however. This was not easy to get to. There were a lot of security grids to cross. Another cryochamber was in a maze on this level. Well, I would have to come back for them later.

Inside of Lab 2, in the closet of all places, was a corridor that led to tunnel that brought me out to a hidden laboratory. Inside this lab there were four teleporters. These looked like they were ready to go, so I decided to try one out. I entered teleporter number 1 and after closing the door there was a tremendous burst. I opened the door and found myself coming out of teleporter 2. "This may prove to be useful", I said to myself, having expected to come out of teleporter one again.

I went back to level 4 and took the elevator down to level 5. This was the storage area. Inside of storage room 5 was a nice big forklift. This was going to be easy, I thought. Also, while I was on this level, a voice came to me (suspension of disbelief required here) that told me there was yet another child somewhere in a maze on this level and that it was inside a room that had doors into it, but no doors out. Well, since I always listen to voices, I stayed out of the maze, but I did keep the teleporters in mind for use later.

Since this was the lowest level that the elevator went to I took the stairs down to the next level. I found another cryochamber here, inside a maze that was hidden behind a column. I took the stairs down two more levels where I not only found the reactor, but I found a set of security grids protecting it and what looked to be the Prime Queen of the creatures. Not wanting to deal with her just yet I decided to first rescue all of the children.

The first thing I did was to go back to level five and retrieve the forklift out of storage room 5. I took this up the elevator and into Lab 2, down the secret hall into the tunnel and I picked up teleporter number 3. I took it back to where the elevators were, then up to level 1. I carried it to the stairs leading to the airlock and then came to the numbing realization that forklifts can't go up stairs. Well, that was a disappointment. But they must have gotten it into the colony in some way. Then I remembered the blocked door just as you enter the colony from the airlocks. What was on the other side? After a little more exploration I found that inside the storage area on this level was a number of boxes blocking a door. I put down the teleporter, picked up the boxes and moved them out of the way, and then picked the teleporter up again and went out. Lo and behold, I found myself in front of the airlock doors! I simply went through them, turned southwest, and carried the teleporter back to the ship.

Once inside the ship I was being really clever. I put the teleporter down inside of the reactor room and then tried to take the forklift into it instead of lifting it. This did not work. The forklift insisted on trying to carry it. I realized that since that was what it was programmed to do I had no choice but to carry something with me when I went through it. So I went to the ship store and picked up a box with the forklift and, since the forklift could not carry more than one object at a time it was forced to enter the teleporter. After closing the door, I was teleported back to teleporter number 4, just like before. I put down the box , picked up teleporter 2, and carried it back to the elevators on level 4.

Now I was ready to do some serious rescuing. I took the forklift up to security area in level one and picked up the first cryochamber. I carried it down to level 4 and into the teleporter and teleported to the ship. I carried it to the front empty room of the ship. One down and five to go. I picked up another box, and teleported back to the lab. This time I picked up teleporter 4 and carried it back, and placed it beside teleporter 2.

I then went to level 3 and apartment 33 and carried the cryo back down the elevator, through teleporter 2 back to the ship, got another box and was back in a flash. This was almost too easy. But then I realized I was running out of boxes on the ship.

The next cryochamber was in the maze on level 4 so I went in and, carefully avoiding the Dave Bowman memorial room, retrieved it (I'm really good at mazes). Teleporting back to the ship I placed it beside the other two. I was halfway done! I grabbed another box and noted that there was only one left after this. Back to the colony and into Lab 1.
By this time I was pretty strong, so the security plates in this area were not too much of a problem. I also went over them as fast as I could; they can hurt if you stick around. I had to pause every so often to dispatch a creature or two, nothing serious. I got to the lab, retrieved the cryochamber and went back the same way I came, much faster this time since there were no creatures blocking my path. I then teleported back to the ship with cryochamber number 4.

Alas, I was down to my last box. I picked it up and teleported back to the colony. Now I was going to have to think. The next cryochamber was somewhere in the maze on level 5, inside a room with no exit doors. Luckily, I had another teleporter that I could waste on this project so I went back through Lab 2 to the tunnel and the hidden lab and picked up the last teleporter. I carried it back up, then down the elevator to level 5 and into the maze. I quickly found the room with the cryochamber in it, put down the teleporter, picked up the chamber and stepped into teleporter 1 inside the room and was transported to teleporter 2 near the elevators. Then I turned around, got back into teleporter 2 and found myself back on the ship.

Well, there were five of the cryogenic chambers sitting next to each other. Only one left. Unfortunately, I had to walk back to the colony because I didn't have any boxes left. It was a short trip.

Emerging from the airlock, I wasn't paying attention and walked down the stairs while I was inside the forklift. When I woke up, I was down at the bottom of the stairs. I could tell that getting cryochamber number 6 was not going to be fun.

I took the elevator down to level 4, picked up teleporter number 2 and went down the elevator again to level 5. There I took the stairs down to level 6 (yet another fall, nothing damaged though) and went into the maze to recover the sixth and last cryogenic chamber. Once this was done and I had placed it next to the other five on the ship I realized that I had no boxes left to carry into the teleporter and that the outside airlock door was open. I was stuck!

I then remembered that I had to replace the ship's reactor core. I got out of the forklift, went upstairs to my desk and read the code inside the drawer. I went back down to the reactor console and entered the code, being very careful because the wrong code would blow it up. The reactor core dropped down from the ceiling and I got back into the forklift and picked it up and then got back into the teleporter. I found myself back on level 4. I took the elevator back down to where I had left teleporter 2 and put down the spent reactor core. Since these cores are very fragile, when I dropped it, it smashed into a million pieces. No great loss however. I picked up the teleporter and carried it back to the stairs down to level 7 and then to level 8. I then ran across the security grid, dropped the teleporter, jumped out of the forklift and ran smack into the Prime Queen. Boy, was she mad. I didn't feel up to arguing with her so I ran around to the other side of the teleporter. She lost interest in chasing after me. All I had to do was enter the reactor code I found in the desk back on level one. I entered the code, the reactor core dropped, I jumped back into the forklift and amid a flurry of shots from the Queen and her friend, I grabbed the reactor core, and got back into the teleporter. I noticed that the lights went out in the colony when the core was removed, but there wasn't anybody left to miss it.

I closed the teleporter door and the next thing I knew, I was back on the ship. I placed the new core into the reactor. Got out of the forklift, entered the reactor code to lift the core back inside and went upstairs.

All systems were "GO" when I got back to my console. I pulled up the accelerator and the next thing I saw was the planet shrinking under me as I went into orbit. I looked down at the innocent sphere which I was about to crush the life out of and said "No matter where you go, there you are." I smiled as I pressed the planet smasher button and sat back to watch one of the best fireworks displays this side of the galaxy. The only thing left to do was to collect my medals.

SPACE MARSHALL ACADEMY ENTRANCE EXAM

What happens when you set the date to 12/25?
How many queens are there inside the Colony?
Where do you go when you lift teleporter 3 with the lifter and enter teleporter 2?
What is the voice saying in the slide shows (Only on Macintosh version)? (Hint: .sdrawkcab s'tI)
What year does the adventure take place? Bonus: what is its significance?
Where are the chattering teeth?
What topological shape is the planet?
Assuming that at your slowest speed each step is a distance of 1 meter what is the radius of the planet?
Where do the doors in the room on the other side of the big pit on level 5 lead?
What happens when you hold down both the mouse button and the space bar when you are in the middle of a fight?
If you don't have the will or the energy to fight a creature, but it is blocking your path, how can you get by it?
How many movies can you name that influenced some aspect of the design of "The Colony"?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

On/off world

Brandon Boyer at Boing Boing Offworld was kind enough to post a link to the Colony videos I made. You can see it here:

A Look Back At the Colony