Mark Stramaglia, Experimental Musician and Digital Artist


Cool Tools Show 166: Mark Stramaglia

Our guest this week is Mark Stramaglia. Mark is an experimental musician and digital artist. He creates games and audio software under the name Bludgeonsoft, and produces and performs music and art as Wizard Master and Operation Re-Information. His current project is Vilmonic, an artificial life, evolution, and genetics sandbox game and virtual world. Vilmonic is available now, on Steam and Itch.io.

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Show notes:

Chrome KURSK SNEAKER ($75)
I’ve had this one pair for probably over eight years. They’re only slightly looking worn. And they’re just the most durable, indestructible shoes I’ve ever owned. They’re made for cycling mostly, but these are the kind of the street pair … I have photos of the same pair from eight years ago, and they really don’t look very different. It’s military grade, nylon reinforced vulcanized rubber — who knows what this stuff is, but they’re not worn down. I rarely use the car, so I’m pretty much biking and walking. So, they do get a bunch of wear, but I’m mostly comparing them to other shoes I’ve had and there’s no comparison. They’re the best. They’re really practical. They’re completely stripped down, just utilitarian; so that’s a great look for me. I love that look.

BIC 4-Color Ballpoint Pen ($6)
Everyone has used this and has them seen around, but I think they don’t get the props that they deserve and it’s the BIC 4-color ballpoint pens. This is great because it’s got the four colors in it, but really my main thing is that I love ballpoint pens. The difference between these and gel pens is that this oil-based ink is fairly viscous, and you can get a really amazing range of a texture and tone out of it by writing lightly or writing heavily. So they’re really great for drawing. There are two main uses that I have. One is I take my sketchbook all around Oakland and I bike around and I do these kind of a representational, or non-representational representational drawings. They’re just blind contour drawings, but not of people, they’re of places, and things, and textures to try to take my eyes off of what they would kind of land on and find the kind of least significant thing around, and then zoom in and do these drawings on them. These pens allow me to get so much kind of variation and texture and weight. Another cool thing is that if you draw hard with them, they really impress the paper. So, you get this kind of embossed look to your sketches, too, which I love, especially if you use heavier weight paper. It totally is retro, and if you look at these pens, these are like simple, completely utilitarian design. They’re really minimal and they’re beautiful.

Hemingway Editor
I was looking for something to simplify the technical explanations that I was doing for the complexities in the game, and this editor — their goal is to kind of simplify your writing as much as possible based on the styles and the concepts that Hemingway would use in his writing. I’ve found that you just put your text in the webpage, and it instantly highlights complex sentences, kind of unnecessary bulk. And it was great. I would kind of play it as a game almost and get my reading level is low as possible. It starts to change the character of your writing, which is not necessarily the best thing, but it’s really great. What I would do is, I would take these tech heavy explanations of how artificial life works, and genetics, and evolution, and natural selection- which are bulky and for a game where I want as broad an audience as possible. I really needed a way to simplify that. So this tool was indispensable. They have a web browser version and you can just go there and it’s free, and they have a downloadable version also for the desktop. It has more features and I haven’t gotten that yet. It’s 20 bucks. I’m planning to get it because I use it.

VMWare on macOS
I have this Mac laptop that I was able to get from work years ago and keep it, so it’s a pretty old Mac laptop, but Macs seem to run VMS, virtual machines really well. I’ve got VMware and so this is really using my Mac as a hypervisor, meaning that I’m using it to run my Mac OS, plus a bunch of virtual machines of different operating systems. That process is amazing for me. … I actually do most of my development in Linux. I’ve got this laptop that runs all three operating systems. My setup is normally KDE Neon Linux in one VM, and Windows 7 or 10 in the other. The great thing is, Mac OS allows you to use gestures. So I have four finger swipe set up so that I can just kind of slide back and forth between different spaces and I have a different OS on each space. The main desktop that I have is Mac OS; I have my browser running in there, and I have one version of my game running there. And then I just four finger swipe, and I’m instantly in Linux, and that’s where I do all of my coding. My coding apps are on there, my text editors, code editors and then I four finger swipe again and there, I’m in Windows. I can test the 64 bit version of the Windows app immediately. They’re all accessing the Mac hard drive. So, I have the same code base that I can access it. It’s pretty amazing. It’s a great way to develop for multiple platforms.

Also mentioned:

This game is called Vilmonic, and it’s an artificial life, a simulator and a virtual world. So the idea behind it was to create a world where you exist within it. There’s no God mode in this game. It’s just its own kind of biology and physics that you have to work with. This game is all interesting, because it’s all pixel arts. The pixel art in this game all has meaning. So the number of pixels on the screen and the color of the pixels all determine the life forms and how much nutrients or hydration they use, and how they’re going to exist within their environments. So all of it is generated. It’s all generative life forms based on genetic code for these creatures. You protect and breed generative pixel-art life forms whose genes, pixels, shape and color determine their physiology and behavior.

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