Panthavma's blog

2023 Roundup!

Second year of PhD DONE!

Published : January 27, 2024

So that's two years of PhD done! One more to go!

2023 was quite eventful for me, mostly on the work front. It was also a year in which I was able to advance on a lot of my projects, and was really able to understand what I want to do later. Unfortunately, I'm still not able to talk about said PhD work... yet. You'll hear more from me in a couple months on that end I'm sure, but that also means I'll focus more on the side things I did this years in this recap.

This blog went a lot further than I expected. I started it a bit at random, because it was a recurring thought. I put up an article on okizeme in fighting games, based on a conversation I had with a friend, but it quickly switched to a graphics blog once I was a bit more free, as I mean that's kinda what I'm doing every day lol. Seems like once you get the ball rolling, it gets momentum: I posted more articles this year than all previous years combined. I figured this would also be good training for when I would have to write research papers, and I was right! When I'm in flow, I can write around 2000 words per hour in my conversational / technical style, which definitely helps iterate on the more important subjects.

Castagne and my related projects also underwent a lot of improvements and advances, but it's starting to take on the shape I envisioned it to have. It's gonna be super cool to see it evolve quickly this year, thanks to the strong base I built in the last months.

In a similar note, I feel like my skillset has diversified and improved. Where before I had a lot of restrictions, my 3D work is now getting better and better, and I'm starting to find my voice and which areas I enjoy the most (animation, rigging, hardsurface, and ofc tech art). I've also acquired a drawing tablet with a screen which has improved my workflows in a lot of significant ways.

I feel a quick timeline might be the most direct way to look through what happened, even if it omits my PhD work:

Month-by-Month Breakdown

January: I published the first article of the year: Game Boy Color Style Rendering Pipeline in Blender / Malt, a quick and easy use of some line algorithms. While simple, a lot of people resonated with it! I feel it's accessible enough. It's also when I added page hit stats to the website to get a small idea of what's going on and what's getting read.

February: This was when I went to Montréal for work! It was quite nice, I enjoyed the city, and tasted some poutine! Just before leaving, I released a quick article: UV-Based ID-Mapping or how to avoid textures and unwrapping, which is more on the tech art side.

March: I was focused on work mostly during that month, but found the time to release Castagne v0.53! This had been in the works for a fair bit, considering I was stabilizing the engine design, which involved redesigning memory storage and other basic blocks. It still went off without a hitch, which I think shows how much I care for code architecture lol.

April: This one was a bit more eventful! That's when Kronian Titans had a demo released and was featured in the Niche Fighter Fest! It was cool seeing people play it, I continued to play the demo myself until June or so since I had fun. This was also the last month of the class I was teaching to college students about video game development.

May: This is when I released my biggest article ever: Line Rendering Deep Overview - Part 1 - Extraction! This one got quite around, and with good reason! Writing it helped me articulate my thoughts a lot better on the bibliography I did, which also helped me in the coming months. I feel info like this is severely lacking in the stylized rendering space, so I'm trying to do my part where I can.

June: I improved Castagne again with v0.53.1 and the patch v0.53.2. I made it easier to use, and even added tutorials in engine. I also took a vacation to see some volcanoes in France, quite nice!

July: Mostly work work, and of my side stuff I didn't really communicate or release much at that point. This was when the PhD picked up a lot of speed.

August: Still mostly PhD work, I did release Castagne v0.53.03 which was a small update with some background reorganization.

September: I tried my hand at writing a small article in July, then procrastinated on the images until then. It was Toon Shading Fundamentals - From Cel-Shading to bidirectional toon ramps, which is a lot more limited than the article on lines, but also more accessible. I had some good comments about how I was going deeper than most articles on the subject, even if this only scratches the surface of what's possible! Oh I also tried devlogs / streaming but not always my thing.

October: Continued work, didn't do a lot on the side. I guess molten winds advanced more since it was an easy way to relieve stress.

November: I did a talk at Godot Con 2023: From Watercolor to Mechs - Stylized rendering in Godot. The event was super cool, I'm glad to have gone there!

December: Last stretch of the year, I mostly grinded at work.

What's up for this year?

After this intense period at work, I kinda need a vacation. Which is nice, because I didn't take too many last year and accumulated a big number of them. In fact, I'm taking some now!

I'm very happy with how my projects are going these days, with Castagne especially nearing the v0.54 release, which is also gonna be a turning point as the base will be almost complete. Kronian has also been making some good progress, but I'm starting to get quite limited by Godot's renderer. I toned down some of the more unique aspects of rendering to improve performance and keep it readable while I'm going to look for a solution later. Kronian is quite big of a project, so it makes sense to test out its parts separately.

I want to keep learning stuff outside of programming since there's a lot of cool things in the world. I'm trying to improve my skills at 3D art as I think I'm starting to really get into it. I also have a couple things I want to discover, but I must take care with my time lol.

Concerning the blog articles, I hope to be able to write a bit more this year. I'm seeing that I tend to be quite thorough in my articles, and this takes quite a bit of time for each one. More specifically, the writing is fast once I sorted my ideas, but the images take forever, even with shorter ones like the toon shading one. Needed to program a couple things each time takes a bit! At this point, I got two options:

I have a couple of good previous candidates for videos, and also some good ideas for smaller graphics articles, we'll see which one I can develop when. As a sidenote, I'm also doing my gamedev class a final time online in French and English, so that's already something to look forward to!

Considering the Line Rendering article, I think a lot of people are waiting for the followup. I'm still debating exactly what I'll do, but I'm gathering my thoughts and more info for part 2. I don't know when it will come out, the bibliography is quite wide, and I'm still looking for the exact angle I want to do (more technical ? how much do I talk about my own yet not that proven ideas ? that kind of stuff). As with all things of this size, it also tends to balloon out a fair bit. In fact, I'm quite certain I'll publish two side articles to that this year, the very technical kind. I hope you'll be looking forward to that!

I do want to expand this blog's subjects a bit more, since graphics was just an easy fit of "I'm good at it" + "it's something I learned recently (~6 years ago) so I have a more structured understanding", as opposed to code architecture for example which is something I learned on my own over the last 20 years. I do want to explore game engines a bit more, so I might write some breakdowns of what I'm reading and understanding too.

As for me right now, well, there's been quite a few fighting games I've been looking forward to for a while releasing these days, and I've also run the 3D printer again to make myself a better quality controller (my current custom one is quite big and has some issues). It's gonna be GAMING time. (Fun fact: at first this article was supposed to have a quick review of the games I played this year, but it was bigger than the rest of the article, as I've played around 30 games in a significant way this year). I'm gonna go hibernate for a bit and play the new Undernight see you guys after!

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