Monday, 29 August 2016

The Flippfly Interview | Part-1

The game studio Flippfly is run by two brothers, Aaron and Forest. I first heard of them when I compiling a list of Kickstarter games for the Mac for macgamerhq. I took a closer look at Race the Sun and reviewed the game for the Mac when it was launched a couple of years ago. I continued to follow the game it was astonishing to see how big it grew. I've always been a big believer in simple games with focus on concept and gameplay over visual pizzaz, and Race the Sun is the game which I feel follows that direction.

When I played the game and showed it to my friends, I had to literally wrest my laptop back from them. This game is ridiculously addictive. If you haven't already gotten it, here's the Steam link. Or the GOG link if that's your style.

I looked up the studio Flippfly, and seeing that it was run by a couple of genuinely nice people, I decided to find out more about their game and the philosophy behind their game making. They were more than kind enough to share what they had learnt and I think it is really cool to see how indie game developers go about their art.

This is the first of a multiple part article and I'll cover a little more about Race the Sun, their epic new way of ideating for new games and even Absolute Drift which is an absolute banger of game. 

Forest and Aaron

sap. How did the idea for Race The Sun come about? What was the inspiration?
Forest: Aaron brought over a Google Sketchup image of an endless flat space with a few sparse buildings in it. He said something like “Wouldn’t it be great to fly through that really fast, forever”.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Advait Deodhar | Hungry to Succeed

Advait Deodhar has a very unique background for a racing driver. Having studied Automotive Design in Turin he took a sudden U-Turn and plonked himself in a race car to chase his dreams. Having successfully caught up with the dream, he now has the hard and gruelling climb to the top. A late bloomer in the racing world, he's still very young where it counts and has the motivation to work hard. 

His design background and ability to express his thoughts clearly made him a special driver for me to interview and hence you might find the interview dragging on for a bit. His enthusiasm is infectious and it's hard not to like him and he has found a new fan in me. This lad will go places, mark my words.

sap. The first week of design school. Drawing 101. The assignment? Draw freehand lines till you can’t tell them apart from the ones drawn with a ruler. surely some part of your design education must’ve helped in your racing career? And can you still draw straight lines without the help of a ruler?
Advait: Funnily enough, nothing from my design school helped my racing career apart from the fact that I realised I really wanted to be a racing driver and not a designer! If I’d studied Automotive Engineering, that would have be a real benefit! I haven’t tried the straight lines in a long time. Think I need to give it a go! 

sap. There’s no other way to put it, but you’re quite late to the motorsport party. Most drivers start their careers even before they turn 10. You formally started your career on what most people would call the wrong side of 20. But that lack of experience hasn’t seemed to faze you, or reflect on your speed. How would you describe the transition from drawing cars to racing them? 
Advait: I jumped into a race car 6 days after I graduated. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. More than driving the car fast, I struggled with race- craft since I had never ‘raced’ before and I didn’t want to crash on my first weekend and have a big fat bill.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Aditya Patel | Eat Sleep Drive

Aditya Patel is one of the few Indian racing drivers out there, in the big bad world of racing ensuring that the Indian national anthem plays more frequently on racetracks across the world. Starting off at the age of four in karting, he went on to win the JK Tyre Junior Karting Championship.

Fast forward to 2008, when I was first read about him in Autocar magazine, he had secured a podium finish in Formula BMW Pacific Championship. He moved on to touring car racing with Volkswagen Polo cup and eventually the Sirocco R Cup in Germany.

The really cool bit comes when he gets the chance to drive the utterly cool GT3 cars. Yes the ones with the massive, massive wings. In 2015, he participated in the Audi R8 LMS Cup, and continues to drive in the series this year as well. This single make series is incredibly competitive and offers no chance for a driver to hide behind the car's faults. He's also backed by Audi, and being a factory driver is a Very Good Thing.

sap. What do you think about in the shower?
Aditya: Same as above.[Eat, Sleep, Drive]

sap. How cool is it to be a factory backed professional racing driver?
Aditya: It’s very nice to be backed by a manufacturer, and not just for the racing aspect but for the fact that I get to work directly with Audi in the setting up as well as running of events. Yes, I have to admit, it’s always been a dream to be backed by a manufacturer and Audi was always up there on top when I was a kid.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Illustrated Guide to Making burnedsap Pancakes

It was the summer of '16. I was hungry and alone at home. I had the power of the internet. Hence I decided to make myself some pancakes. The first time I made them, I literally 'burned' them. On my second attempt, they tasted like uttapams. On my third try, I got them more or less right. Here is the illustrated guide to making pancakes. This recipe is a heavily modified version of the one I originally used. The original recipe didn't work out, so I improvised. 

Good luck.

Apparently the scrapy thingy is also called a spatula.

These ingredients I have listed are what I think should be added to pancakes. Don't worry too much about the proportions, just dunk whatever feels right and blitz. Word to the wise: Get generous with the baking powder if you want fluffy pancakes.

Get creative with the proportions. Taste the batter often, and add more of whatever you feel is lacking. I even added creme de cassis because I felt my pancakes lacked alcohol, and were a bit too sweet.

Cooking the batter is the trickiest part. The trick of course, is to heat the batter evenly on both sides. Flip it prematurely and you might tear it. Too late, and you'll burn it. Keep it on low heat, and be patient. Let the heat slowly cook the pancake.

Don't forget to butter/oil the pan before you pour in the batter. Try to aim for a decently sized pancake. Not too thin, nor too thick.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The De-Tryst with Kimi?

Spa Francorchamps, 2005. The Belgian Grand Prix.

After the second round of pitstops. On a drying track, Kimi pushes to take the lead of the race.
"Kimi Raikkonen is pushing hard though. Intent on that, getting the lead, and Raikkonen has set the fastest, my goodness me (!) I can't believe my eyes! 1:53.810. That's two seconds faster than any lap in this grand prix so far! Wow!"
This was James Allen's reaction to this incredible turn of pace shown by Raikkonen. At the time, it didn't raise any eyebrows, because that was simply how quick Raikkonen was.

It was late 2000 and Sauber was looking for a driver to replace the outgoing Mika Salo, who was going to Toyota the next year. They had already secured Nick Heidfeld who had made his debut that year. Engineer Jacky Eeckelaert contacted the Robertsons to inquire about Jenson Button for a drive, but he was headed to Renault. Instead, the Robertsons offered Kimi Raikkonen. With Kimi having only raced in 23 races before, Sauber decided to take a risk and offer him a test. Kimi performed very well at the test.
"Kimi was a big risk," says Rampf. "But we came to the conclusions that he was the right man for us. We were amazed by his driving because he had no experience. At Mugello, I was there and Peter also came down. Kimi was given a laptime to achieve and after every day he had achieved it and we asked for a quicker laptime. Then we gave him new tyres and took out 40kg. 
"He had never driven with no fuel, and the simulation said that he should be 1.2 seconds quicker. And he did the first lap exactly 1.2 seconds quicker. He didn't know where the braking points were, and he just had the out lap to get a feel for it but he was spot on with the simulation. This was astonishing. 
"He was very confident. After the test, I told him that it was a good laptime but he could go quicker. He asked me if he should have gone quicker and I said 'that would have been good'. His response was 'if you had told me, I would have been quicker'. He wasn't joking - he was serious.
Peter Sauber fought with Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz, the principal sponsor at the time and convinced him that Kimi was a better bet than the Red Bull backed driver at the time, Enrique Bernoldi.

This win came at a heavy price as Sauber subsequently lost Red Bull backing for 2001.
“I saw it in his eyes. I looked in his eyes and I thought ‘I’ve seen this look before. And I know where I saw that look before’. And it gave me goosebumps when I remembered that look. It was Senna.”
Sergio Rinland's prophecy was on point as Kimi, inspite of heavy opposition obtained his superlicense and silenced his critics as he finished 6th in his very first grand prix, securing points on the first time of asking. He eventually finished 10th in the final standings at the end of the year. Ron Dennis had seen enough by August and had finalized a deal to bring Kimi to McLaren for 2002, replacing his Finnish compatriot and double world champion Mika Hakkinen who also had a hand to convince McLaren of Kimi's speed. Once again, Kimi had put the powers to be in a situation where they had to break Nick Heidfeld's McLaren pre-contract to bring him in.

With four podiums in 2002, with one on his debut for McLaren, Kimi had a difficult season with the slow and unreliable MP4-17. 2003 was the year when Kimi tasted victory and missed out on the world championship by two points. The quick but highly erratic MP4-17D brought Raikkonen his win at Malaysia, and nine podiums. Ultimately it was a combination of youth and unreliability that lost out to Michael Schumacher's experience and fast Ferrari.

The narrow title loss catapulted the young Raikkonen to superstardom, and was touted as the Next Big Thing alongside Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. With Autosport magazine already spreading rumours of a move to Ferrari in the near future, reality was to bring Kimi down to 7th in the championship standings in 2004 with only one win and three podiums toward the end of the season. McLaren started the season with the atrociously unreliable MP4-19 and switched to the much improved MP4-19B in the latter part of the season, which finally bought results.

Something seemed to have clicked in 2005 at McLaren, and the failures of the previous years led to what is arguably one of the fastest Formula 1 cars ever built, the MP4-20. With 7 pole positions, 10 wins and 12 fastest laps registered, it should have won the drivers and the constructors championship. But Kimi and McLaren walked away from the season empty handed. Fernando Alonso and Renault had won it all. The MP4-20 had the most powerful engine, but the Mercedes unit was also painfully unreliable. Kimi lost three potential wins due to various engine related issues, and this unreliability meant that Alonso ultimately went on to win the championship and that the McLaren MP4-20 went down in history as one of the fastest cars not to win a championship.

This season had set in motion a chain of events, which would force Michael Schumacher into early retirement and hail the beginning of a new era at Ferrari. An unremarkable 2006 saw McLaren witness a season without a win for the first time since 1996, but Kimi dragged out six podium finishes from a car that didn't have potential to mix it up at the sharp end of the grid.

2007 was a dawn of a new era, both at McLaren and Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen's move to Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton's introduction at McLaren had ushered in a new era in the sport. Ferrari and McLaren fought tooth and nail day in, day out, on the track and off it. But the championship would ultimately be decided at the last race in Brazil. Lewis and Fernando led the standings with 107 and 103 points respectively, with Kimi and Massa following up with 100 and 86 points. Mathematically Kimi had a chance to win, but the odds were heavily stacked in McLaren's favour. Kimi went on the win the race, and the championship by a single point with the McLaren suffering unreliability once again.

Many have called it a lucky win, but ultimately you do need luck to win championships and Kimi had suffered his fair of share in 2003 and 2005. This leads us neatly on to the subject of this article. Kimi disappeared in 2008, and we didn't see him till late 2012. It wasn't the first time he had gone M.I.A either. Large parts of 2007 testify to his disappearance. It's no secret that Kimi has one of the biggest and the most loyal set of fans. Anyone who dares criticize him risks the wrath of the Internet. However deep down, even they will admit that Kimi simply hadn't turned up on many occasions.

If the timing screens flash purple and you see a car carving though the field, there's a good chance its Kimi behind the wheel. Very few drivers have the raw, natural, and unbelievable talent that Kimi possesses. Comparing raw, visceral speed, and pace, Kimi is one of the best right up there with Schumacher, Alonso, and Senna. I'm not a god fearing individual, and nor do I believe in the word "talent". But Kimi possesses the ability to take anything that moves and take it to the limit and beyond. His exploits in snowmobile racing and the World Rally Championship are a testament to that fact.

The lucky few who have sat next to him and witnessed his skill have nothing but hyperboles to describe the experience. His speed has left many drivers, past and present, gob smacked. Replays of his Monaco qualifying laps still send chills down any Formula 1 fan's spine. His ability to extract speed from a car has caused hysteria in the commentary box. His seemingly sub conscious control of a Ferrari F12 around Fiorano has gone near viral.

Then why do the numbers not reflect any of this?

On paper, Raikkonen is at best, mediocre. If this were Football Manager, you would not buy him. His record against team-mates tells a tale of a driver more likely to be replaced at the end of the season.

Outperformed by all his teammates since 2008(bar the Lotus years), its difficult to see why Ferrari resigned him for 2017. Although he did well at McLaren, he never up against World Champions like Alonso and Vettel. In fact it could be argued that Raikkonen is simply an average racing driver. On paper atleast it’s hard to see why he's still in F1 at all. Outpaced by Alonso on an average of 0.548 secs and 0.463 secs by Vettel last year, these stats are almost nightmarish for any driver.

But. There's this big niggling but. The belief that I, and all other Raikkonen fans have, that when given the car he likes Kimi is the quickest driver out there without a shadow of doubt. His swashbuckling McLaren drives were unbelievable. The combination of man and machine in 2005 had flashes of Senna written all over it. Every lap he drove was mesmerizing. A dominant force in every race, it was encapsulated what Formula 1 is all about. He drove some spectacular races with Ferrari, textbook performances in 2007, and dragging the heavy, bloated and uncompetitive 2009 car up the grid. Fired at the end of 2009, he took his severance money and fans to Nascar and the WRC.

Stories of his prodigious performances in Nascar tests are not well known, but its said that he helicoptered in at Rockingham, got into the car, and within 5 laps got to within half a second of the lap record. The team then ran just 50 laps of the 1.17 mile circuit, because he had nothing else left to learn. No one else had got to speed with a Nascar truck so quickly before, and the team chief was reportedly stunned at Raikkonen's pace. His pace in the World Rally Championship didn't go unnoticed either. As a rookie driver, he put in some outstanding performances with a series of consistent finishes in the top 10. In a SS stage in Algarve Stadium he also equaled Ken Block around the looping 2km track, (arguably the only track Block is good at) both finishing the course in a dead heat with 2:11.0.

His return to Formula 1 with Lotus in 2012 caused quite the stir, to put it mildly. His classy performances all year was topped off with a win at Abu Dhabi at the end of the season. He quickly adapted to the new tyre saving formula and in 2013, won the Australian Grand Prix with reportedly having only broken traction twice in the entire grand prix. A slew of podium finishes continued throughout the year, even through Pirelli switched to 2012 spec tires after the British Grand Prix (Isn't a formula supposed to stay constant?), which seemed to hamper Raikkonen more than his teammate Grosjean. Even though he skipped the last two races due to what it is suspected a combination of unpaid salary, and chronic back pain for which he required surgery, he still finished comfortably ahead of Grosjean in the final championship standings.

With Lotus floundering in debt, and losing key staff members, Ferrari saw their chance and offered him a contract. 2014 was a disastrous year for Kimi, outpaced and outgunned by Alonso over the course of the season. There were some performances, such as in Singapore where we saw flashes of Kimi's speed, but those occasional moments are now becoming the norm. 2015 wasn't any better, and although he did get 3 podium finishes, the writing is now on the wall. His performances in 2016 have been much better, although helped along by Vettel's mechanical problems.

There is still a belief that if given the right car, Kimi of the old will come alive again. Ferrari's bid for the World Champion is already in tatters, their only hope is to pool all resources into the 2017 project and try to finish ahead of the resurgent Red Bull. Kimi is exceptional in low grip, high power situations, his footwork and sensitivity can be a strong ally for him for 2017.

Here's hoping, as always, Kimi will reappear this year or the next.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Pentax K1000 Development

I shot a couple or rolls of film with the Pentax K1000, but I was having a lot of trouble digitising them. The IT centre in my college doesn't have the necessary equipment to enable their high end scanners to scan 35mm film properly, so for a long time I looked around for a proper method to scan my film. The search is still on to find a process to do so, so in the meantime I asked the film development shop to scan my film.

The only reason I want to do it myself, is so that I have better control over the digitisation process. The scans I get from the photo shop are 300dpi JPEG format images which means I can't edit them at all. I really want to get involved in the process of working on negatives and playing with colour to produce positive images.

I went to Mumbai for a week or so, and I spent one morning roaming in the fort area with the Pentax. Last time I visited the same area, I had a Nikon 3200 DSLR with me. It was really interesting to use a different medium to take photographs in the same place and compare the experiences. With the DSLR, everything around me seemed worthy of taking a picture of even though it might not actually be worth it. Shooting with the analogue SLR, time seemed to slow down and with only 36 shots, I was in no hurry to finish the roll. I enjoyed my walk through the place a lot more, and waited for a good shot. One advantage with the DLSR is that you can quickly take a shot, and the autofocus system really helps if you have to quickly whip out your camera and shoot. With the Pentax, I had to be patient and judge my shot well. With time and practice I'm sure that even the film SLR can be used to take those split moment shots

Monday, 28 December 2015

The Camera Conundrum

I've always wanted a nice camera, but I've always wanted one that is easily pocketable as well. For a long time I looked at the mirrorless SLR's but the good ones were never really released in India, and the really good ones which were eventually released in India, were in the same price bracket as small second hand cars. The really good mirrorless cameras in my opinion are the Olympus PEN E-P5, and the Fujifilm X-E2. Both are reasonably small, have all the proper manual controls, and are really quite good. Another unique thing about both these cameras are the way they are designed. Both mimic the look and feel of the old manual film cameras. The user experience of both these cameras is quite different from that of the current crop of DSLRs. Made of high quality plastic and aluminium, they are also very well built. The PEN E-P5 was never quite released in India, and frankly Olympus itself hasn't really quite made an effort to launch itself as a brand either. A lot of shops and resellers eventually stopped stocking on Olympus cameras due to the lack of effort on the companies part. Its very strange, how this company functions. The Fuji X-E2 is an even better camera, with superb build quality, manual controls, great lenses, and fantastic image quality. But you can also buy a small car with that sort of money, and that doesn't really work on many levels.

When I went to Europe, I chose not to take a camera with me as I felt that a camera would simply detract me from the whole experience. However, the iPhone 5S with its superb camera, and slow-motion video capability was more accomplished enough to deal with the 5 month trip. I was genuinely surprised with what one can do with such a small but capable camera. You can see the results for yourself here, on my VSCO page. With a bit of post processing on the phone itself, the results are really quite good. I didn't have to lug around a camera and its electronic peripherals, and that weight saving is worth ever gram I saved on my trip. The trick to travelling, is travelling light. My exposure to Formula 1 paid off here. It's not only the weight either. Electricity is also an issue. It was stressful enough to manage a mobile phones battery, with all the different plugs, and the headache making sure I had enough charge on my phone, and battery pack to make throughout the day with enough charge for calls, and for taking photos and videos. Theres also the issue of memory. With a couple of navigation apps and offline maps, there simply isn't enough storage space for all the photos and slow motion videos. Managing all this was bothersome enough.

Sunday, 27 December 2015


It's been a long time since I've updated, or even seen this blog. Of late, I have been busy with college, and the other necessary but awful parts of life. Hence I have been micro blogging my life away on my Tumblr. But that is nowhere near as satisfying as writing on this blog.

The Garfield Mac widget has recently stopped working which is pity since it was quite entertaining to have on one's desktop, but times are a changing I suppose. GoComics must've changed the URL of the Garfield comics, and updated it to their new system, which uses an internal javascript to call out new comics I suppose.

I recently got my hands on Grid: Autosport, which is a fascinating game, and I'll add that to the list of racing games for the Mac. I'll publish the full review on MacGamerHQ soon.

I've also picked up a cheap Microsoft Kinect, and I'm playing around with Processing to make that work. Its not going terribly well, but then again, nothing I do ever does. I also got my hands on a Pentax K1000, which is another interesting piece of kit.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Polygon Experiment 1

Polygons are wonderful, and if shaded right can look sensational. Here's the first of my efforts.

Adding some more order to the mess

Sticking to triangles only

Friday, 2 May 2014

Applescript fun-ReadAloud

Tutsplus and I were to make an Applescript tutorial. Unfortunately for Mr. Winters, I'm not really going to help him out anymore. So here is a fun little tutorial to make an script that narrates whatever you type into it and gives you an option of saving it as an MP3 file.

Here's the script, with the vaguely useful comments explaining every line.

display dialog "Welcome to ReadAloud" buttons {"Next", "Cancel"} default button 1 -- Welcome dialog
repeat -- Repeat Statement 1
display dialog "Enter text to be read aloud" default answer "" buttons {"Next", "Canel"} default button 1 -- Taking input from user
set textInput to text returned of result -- Assigning input to variable 'textInput'
set voiceChoice to choose from list {"Vicki", "Kathy", "Victoria", "Alex", "Bruce", "Fred"} with prompt "Select a voice" -- Creates a list and displays a message telling the user to choose a voice to read out the text input
say textInput using voiceChoice -- The input is narrated using the selected voice
tell application "System Events" -- Ordering System Events
display dialog "Do you want to save this as an audio clip?" buttons {"Yes", "No"} default button 1 -- Displaying dialog to ask user about saving the audio clip
if the button returned of the result is "Yes" then
set clipName to "Voice Narration by " & voiceChoice & ".mp3" -- Defining name of file
set saveLoc to ((path to desktop as text) & clipName) -- Defining location of file
say textInput using voiceChoice saving to saveLoc -- Writing data to save file
end if
end tell
display dialog "Do you want to do it again?" buttons {"Yes", "No"} default button 2
if button returned of result is "No" then exit repeat -- Exiting repeat loop

end repeat -- Repeat Statement 2

Download the executable script here.

It works. I think.