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Japan Log #3 – City of peace

When we arrived at Hiroshima, it was already dark since the sun already had set long before we left Fukuoka. So we made a beeline to our hostel, and were greeted by a really nice and cozy Japanese-style room.

The very comfortabe futon.

The next day was planned as two half. In the morning, we wanted to go to the Hiroshima Dome, lone remain of the atomic bombing of the city during World War II, and to the Peace Museum next to it. Then, in the afternoon, we would probably need something to lift the mood a little bit, so we would be headed to Miyajima, one of the most photographed spot in Japan.

The weather was with us on this one, and we took the streetcar under a clear sky. After a short ride, we arrived at the Dome. I already had seen it, but it still impressed me this time around. It serves as a reminder of an horror of such magnitude that I really feel humbled by it.

The A-Dome, still standing as it remains since that fateful day in 1945.

Then, we took a stroll through the park between the dome and the museum, with all the monuments to the victims of the bombing.

View towards the T-shaped bridge that was meant to be the target of Little Boy.

The museum was, even for a second visit, a pretty harrowing experience. Between the models of children with their skin dangling from their arms to depict wounds from the bomb to slabs of stone with shadows etched upon them by the heat rays, the many items on display were sometimes gruesome, but were always put to the background of the peaceful message of the museum. Hiroshima is really a city dedicated to the idea of everlasting peace and the museum carry this idea to put it front and center. The museum refrains from casting Japan as the helpless victim, but instead spends time acknowledging the horrors committed by Japanese in China, Korea, and elsewhere. No need to say that you still feel a pretty strong guilt at the thought of what the “good guys” did to Hiroshima, and Nagasaki in the hope of preventing the USSR to gain too much influence after the war and justify the cost of the Manhattan project to the public…

Paper cranes folded by Sadako, a child that died of leukemia several years after the bombing, in the hope that making 1000 of them would help her live.

So, after exiting the museum (and escaping the hordes of elementary school children asking for our name for their English class), we started to walk in the direction of the station to take the train towards Miyajima. Along the way, we discovered several pretty sights, that Joan didn’t fail to capture.

A house with a beautiful blue roof.

After a quick train trip, we finally arrived to the Miyajima ferry pier, and as the sun was setting at this point, we got some gorgeous views during the crossing.

On your left, Miyajima.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the locals. And by that I don’t mean the people living on the island, but rather the ones tolerating the humans there : the deers.

Teenage deers with their distinctive “life sucks, man” look.

They were more or less friendly, except when one tried to run away munching on our map. Or when they decided they wanted to be on the group photograph.

Matter-of-factly posing as old Japanese people.

I did take that for a practice run before Nara, though. Because compared to there they seemed quite docile…

Anyway, after messing with the deers, it was time to check out the biggest attraction of the surroundings : the big torii.

The photograph taken ten thousand times.

The sun sets early in Japan. That means that you get to enjoy the nighttime atmosphere a bit more, but it also has its share of drawbacks. For example, it meant that we were too late to enjoy the climb to the top of the mountain behind the temple… Too bad! We still climbed part of the path to grab some pictures, though.

A twisted tree.

Some stones.

The colours of autumn.

When we decided to come back down, it was really dark, but that showed us another side of Miyajima.

Eerie lights near a house.

The temple at night.

And that concluded our Miyajima trip. The next day, we just had a small walk around Hiroshima station planned before our train at noon. It was nice to take things a bit slower to rest for all the walking we had done up to that point. Then, when the time came, we boarded the train to the first “new” destination of this trip, for me at least : Osaka.

But that will be for next time. I’ll give you a spoiler word though : Hyper. Like this hyper spoon :

Not the easiest spoon to take on a picnic.

Japan Log #2 – Fukuoka Frenzy

Well, ok, maybe not so much frenzy as you may think, but hey, it made for a nice-sounding title.

Last time, I was telling you we had to choose between going to Canal City to eat ramen, or going to the Yamato-ya. Well, we did both!

The morning of our second day in Fukuoka, my idea was to show Joan around the Fukudai University a bit. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my SD card in my computer, so we only had my mobile phone to take pictures. The weather was great though!

Near Fukudai, where many students ride bikes.

Before going through the campus and going to the International Exchange Hall, where Pascale lived for almost a year, we had something to take care of : our grumbling stomachs. So we headed for the Yamato-ya restaurant. For the story, this is a restaurant held by an ex-boxer, and it kinda shows in the meals… For example, I ordered a karahage, costing around 4 euros…

This thing is humongous. And you can ask for an “extra large” portion.

Last time I was there, I vanquished this meal, but this time, it was too much for me, and I left some rice. Joan ordered a bowl of rice with beef on top of it, and it was also really huge. But the food is really, really tasty. If you’re ever in Fukuoka, I can’t recommend you to go there enough. I had forgotten the machine to order meals was in Japanese only though, without pictures… But thanks to Joan recognizing the kanji for “beef”, and me asking a waitress for “karahage”, we managed!

Then, it was walking around time.  Instead of describing with long-winded sentences what we saw, I’ll let pictures do the talking.

The Yamato-ya from the outside.

The international houses. Memories, memories…

Between the Fukudai campus and the International House.

Afterwards, we dropped by Fukudai to greet Mrs. Degroote, a French teacher participating in the exchanges between Louvain-la-Neuve and Fukuoka. She was, as always, very friendly, and pointed us towards the Momochi neighborhood, which is apparently very pretty around this time of the year. Plus, it’s by the sea, so we decided to heed her advice and go spend our afternoon there. The weather was nice, and we got a good view of the beautiful Fukuoka Tower before spending some time at the beach, and finally head back to our hotel in order to prepare for our evening.

The Fukuoka Tower, towering (pun intended) over Momochi.

The plan was to go to Canal City, a shopping mall near the river, and featuring usually nice illuminations. Plus, it is the home of the Ramen Stadium, where 8 ramen shops from across Japan offer their tasty dishes. Around Canal City, there are also many small ramen stalls that see salarymen from around come to enjoy some noodles before heading home.

Canal City from the outside.

The small ramen stalls near Canal City.

We elected to try some of the ramen in Ramen Stadium (for convenience, mostly), and ended up ordering miso ramen coming from the northern part of the country (which Joan guessed correctly seeing how she found the soup quite full of fat).

It was then time to call it a night, but not before a quick stop at the arcade. We played a game of taiko drums, and a 3D horror game that made Joan scream more than once! Then she managed to catch a small Totoro plush on her first try with an UFO catcher. We were thus happy of our evening when we arrived at the hotel. Having managed to dodge the rain by coming out of Canal City at the right time was the icing on the cake!

The next day was meant to be more relaxing than the previous one. We had to take the Shinkansen to Hiroshima in the evening, and before that we had a meeting with another group of friends, namely Masami, Kenta and Aya. So we spent some time going around shops and the like. I made, of course, a stop at Tower Records, and got myself a Spangle call Lilli line DVD, as well as adding several records on my ‘to-buy list’ for this trip.

Then, the evening came, and we met Kenta in the Starbucks Coffee near Hakata station. Then came Masami and … surprise Shoko! Aya came a little later. It was so great to see them all again. After our coffee/chocolate/other beverage, we went for a purikura together, and Kenta and I played a round of the same horror game I had tried with Joan earlier. So much fun!

Thank you for a wonderful time!

Aya and Shoko had to leave at this point, and the time of our Shinkansen was fast approaching, but Kenta had a last gift in store for us. Through elevators and escalators, up flight of stairs and around corners, he led us to show us Fukuoka as I had never seen it. From up high.

Fukuoka, more beautiful than ever.

It really was a beautiful sight to leave us with, but it didn’t make leaving Fukuoka any easier. As we waved Kenta and Masami goodbye from the escalator leading to the Shinkansen tracks, we felt really sad to leave all those memories behind us, along with the friends that gave them to us. But on and on the train rolled, to bring us to our next destination: Hiroshima!

Japan Log #1 – Traiiiiiiins (*)

(*) To be said like “braiiiiiins”. Reason apparent in a moment.

Ah, Japan… So glad to be back for another 3-weeks stay! It’s only been two days, but they were already packed with things to remember, so here’s a quick update, live from Fukuoka.

Flight was uneventful, but was rather comfortable due to the seat next to me having no one in it. That meant a lot of room for my legs, which is nice. The weather was very cloudy all the way through, until we came over Japan, where the sky was clear and offered us a gorgeous view of Japan from above.

Picture snuck during the descend towards Nagoya when the flight attendants weren’t looking…

After landing, I had to go and meet my girlfriend at Nagoya, following the long flight with the first of many train journeys in the three weeks to come…

On the way to Nagoya station.

At Nagoya, we then both took the Shinkansen to Tokyo, another two hours ride. But that one had a little something in store from us. Thanks to the clear weather, we got a great look at one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks.


Fuji-san, almost like on a postcard.

After arriving at Tokyo, we switched to a Yamanote line train and made a beeline to our hotel in Ueno. We only took a moment to drop our stuff there before rushing in the other direction.

Yamanote again, then, at Shibuya, transfer to a local train, to finally get where we wanted to go : Shimokitazawa.

It’s not a secret that Shimokitazawa is my favourite part of Tokyo. A reason for that is that it is where I saw already quite a few live gigs that left a big impression on me. And that day was the day of the 5th annual “Shimokita Roundup”, a festival where around 70 bands are split between 10 different live house in the neighborhood. I only knew one (FoZZtone) beforehand, but some YouToubing had pointed out a couple more that we were eager to check out. For exemple aquarifa :

Or, on the softer side, Predawn :

 All in all, a fantastic evening, topped off by a ramen from my favourite ramen restaurant ever. Then, after a quick walk through Shibuya, it was time to get some rest. Unfortunately, as cameras were forbidden during the festival in Shimokitazawa, no pictures…

And even worse, seems like I do not have the permission to post my girlfriend’s impersonation of Sadako from Ringu, which would have made the title of this post have sense. Dramatic.

But anyway, next day was train day again, as we went far south to Fukuoka. The nice thing is that, for parts of the long trip (6 hours), the train had power sockets! So, yay, programming!

Some gamedev in the Shinkansen.

The sky was beautiful as we approached our destination.

Now approaching Fukuoka.

For the evening we had something special planned : an evening out with a group of friends. It had been quite a long time without seeing most of them (2 years for some!), so I was very excited. And the evening was a blast. They had reserved a room in a restaurant with some kind of high-tech ordering service : you had to scan the dishes you wanted on the menu with some kind of electronic pen, which transmitted your order to the kitchen. We ate so much good stuff!

And afterwards, we went for a traditional “purikura” to commemorate the evening. It was really awesome to see them all again, and it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to them, then to Rumiko, the one that organised the evening and who walked with us all the way to our hotel. Both Joan and I really wish to see them again as soon as possible!

And so, now for the third day, we are going to visit the Fukudai university (where Pascale stayed for a year), walk around in Tenjin and probably eat a tasty (and huge) meal at the Yamatoya restaurant, either that or a ramen from Ramen Station near the shopping mall of Canal City. Decisions, decisions…

Our merry group in Tenjin after tasty food and noisy arcade. Thanks for the memories!

(Week 1 – Day 7) – ToweRing

(Cross-posted from

Well, way to finish the first week on a disappointing note…
Except for a couple of tech stuff (like getting the Blender to Panda3D exporter set collision geometry as such automatically instead of having to open the model file and do it manually) which will save me a lot of time down the road, I did nothing yesterday (not even post :\).
I still have 3 weeks, but as I don’t have so much time to invest during the week, I would have loved to keep the pace I had set for the whole week. Anyway, not to sound too down, I managed to repopulate my to-do list, and I think I’m narrowing down the opening sequence of the game in my head. I also have a couple of ideas I want to try with the interior scenes.
So I have not been completely idle, but I have no new screenshot 🙁 At least, it should mean that next time, it will not be random geometry, but a first draft of an actual location in the game. A good way to start off week 2, I guess ?

(Week 1 – Day 6) – ToweRing

(Cross-posted from

Good news ! I managed to get quite a lot done today, as I think I have nailed most of the platforming stuff.
Isn’t he looking nice, standing on his block like that ?
I managed to get a much cleaner behaviour than what I had during the LD, so I am very very happy about that. I crossed all the items I had on my to-do list so far, which is awesome, but my planning still has some things I want to address before moving on to week 2 and the beginning of the level design.
That said, I did stumble upon a little problem that I will have to solve : the character cannot pass through point (0,0) anymore. I need to adapt what I am doing to make that possible again, I’m sure I’ll figure something out. Apart from that nagging problem, I am super excited at the idea on making some more graphical experiments (do settle on a art style) and delving into the design of the game proper!

(Week 1 – Day 5) – ToweRing

(Cross-posted from
The post is a bit late, but I didn’t have the time to post yesterday, so here it is.

I have worked on one of the key gameplay features of the game : the perspective switching (thanks, Fez). As the game takes place around (and in) a tower, the player can move around its center, but I wanted to provide the ability to move from and towards said center, to enable more intricate level designs, as well as a better exploration inside the tower.
It now works in my test level, and by a key press you can switch between the two perspectives.
Moving around the center, as per usual.
Coming towards the center.
Now that I have this thing out of the way, day 6 will be for collisions and platforming. I keep shuffling the order of my to-do list, but at least I am getting things done 🙂

(Week 1 – Day 4) – ToweRing

Well, so I have a character running in circle around a scene, and my first tests seem to indicate that using sprites for the character won’t interfere with the shaders I plan to use. I found a (very good) placeholder on, and will keep using it throughout most of the development, until I can come up with something of the same level.
It runs !
The plan for tomorrow is to turn off the fancy shaders, and get down to the core mechanics of the game. So the next screenshot will probably much less dramatic, and only show our character standing on a plane. Exciting !

(Week 1 – Day 3) – ToweRing

Well, a little less progress than I would have liked, but I did manage to get many “technical” things working. For example, volumetric lighting.
Nice “god rays”
I will start with some actual gameplay, maybe tonight still, or else tomorrow. I am still thinking about the structure for the code, even though I cannot afford to dwell on this to much : I have to make progress.
So, yes, running and jumping for tomorrow, starring a placeholder character. See you then !

(Week 1 – Day 2) – ToweRing

(Cross-posted from

Today, I made some initial tests with the baking of ambient occlusion (as I want to have something that is mostly devoid of textures). But apparently somewhere between Blender and Panda3D, texture coordinates get mixed up…
I was on my laptop today, so I will use my more powerful desktop to experiment with other shading techniques. I will also try to include a controllable character.
Something went wrong there…

(Week 1 – Day 1) – ToweRing

Hi there !
Today is the first day of June, and June is for the first time this year the “NaGaDeMo”, or “National Game Development Month”. That makes it perfect for starting on a 1 month game project. So without further ado, I present to you :
The game itself is going to be what I couldn’t get to work during last April’s Ludum Dare competition, with a lot of changes and additions. Which means a platformer taking place on the outer surface (and inside) of a huge tower.
For this first day, I have spent a lot of time brainstorming about what I should include or change in the first design of the game. Then, as the cool kids seem to do these days, I have put everything in a Workflowy list. This will hopefully help me stay on target during the month, and I have made it available here if some of you would want to see it evolve during the month. Please note that it will of course include many spoilers as I will probably put there every bit of story. So don’t open that part if you want to keep surprises intact.
Tomorrow, I plan on getting started with the programmation, and will try to get some basic platforming going on. So hopefully, screenshots !