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Thanks to COVID-19, many of us are trapped at home for the next month or 3, and are looking for a productive way to spend our time or keep the kids occupied. What better way than learning new skills in something you are really interested in doing while spending no money for the training? Pluralsite is one of several companies offering such training, in their case for any kind of computer skill set you can imagine. For some of us that means training in a wide range of IT jobs that you can do remotely, which could mean additional income during the current crises. Then there are things like video game creation, 3D modeling, and programming, all across a range of platforms, that can grab the imagination of anyone who wants to become truly creative. You don’t need to give them a credit card to sign up for the free courses, just an email address, but you only have until the end of April to take the classes; come May 1st it will go back to costing money to get access to them.

Thanks to the folks at Games from Scratch for the heads up on this opportunity. I am including their YouTube video on the Pluralsite offering, where they go into some detail about what you will actually have access to there. They also mention several of the other training opportunities, such as 3 months of free classes on every aspect of making games for the Unity Game Engine with free courses, projects and tutorials to get you creating with style.

If you are playing with 3D modeling, be aware of MakeHuman, a free open source tool for creating 3D characters. Written in Python, it integrates seamlessly into blender, and allows you to instantly generate a fully rigged and ready to animate human or near-human. It’s slider set has over a thousand morphs you can apply to modify your character, including (but not limited to) Age, gender, height, weight, body proportions, face shapes, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, ears, neck, hands, feet.. the list goes on. And it is licensed under the CC0 license from Creative Commons, giving you unparalleled freedom to use your creations however you like. The folks over at Games From Scratch did an excellent introduction video on this, which I am including here so you can see just how easy and powerful this package is.

If you haven’t done so already, check out the Humble Game Maker Bundle, and add a very powerful collection of game maker tools to your personal arsenal for very little money. The fact that you get to support charity at the same time is just a bonus, made even better by the option to add your own favorite charity to the purchase! You can also select the percentage of your money that goes to each of the participants (software creators, charities, and humble bundle), although for myself I tend to let the percentages stay at the default, because it seems like a pretty equitable distribution to me. The part of this deal I found particularly exciting were the modules that allowed you to export your finished game to multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, and Windows, as well as the cross-platform power of HTML5. They give you the source code to a number of excellent games as well, so you can study them and learn exactly how they pulled off major effects and game functions. The games themselves, including the ones you create, run on the Steam game engines alongside such iconic classics as Duke Nukem, and can also be accessed through YoYoGames. There is no downside to this package; consider picking up this powerful collection of game creation packages at this insanely reduced rate, supporting charity in the process, and set yourself up to make the game you always wanted to play.

The Stargate Project created a life size replica of a Stargate in the park of Musée royal de Mariemont in Belgium. This is for an exhibit about the roll of Egyptian Gods in Geek Culture that will be running through November 20th, covering everything from the Stargate TV show and Movies to Comic Books. The first video is about the production of the Stargate, using milling, laser cutting, and 3D printing. The second video is of one that is much smaller and easier to 3D print and assemble, using the plans from Thingiverse, if you wanted to make your own.

Off topic, but I love Japanese cuisine and wanted to share these with you. NHK is a Japanese organization that an American would think of as a cross between PBS and the FCC, and they have a ton of excellent programming in their library. They have been streaming live online for a number of years, but they recently added an On Demand interface to their web site and their apps, so you can watch and listen to shows on your schedule. Besides the Manga/Anime/Games/Music shows I watch without fail every week, their collection includes an excellent assortment of Japanese Food programs, both video and Radio Recipe collections. Plus, they broadcast in 18 languages, one of which is English, so you don’t even have to learn to speak Nihongo to follow along. If you have ever gone to a Japanese restaurant and had a meal you really enjoyed, you will be surprised at how easy it is to cook them yourself. Just as a bonus, all of these programs are free to enjoy.

Want to convert something into Bronze? The Lost-Wax Technique really does date back to the Bronze Age, or as close as makes no difference from my perspective. This great little animation from Renana Aldor & Kobi Vogman was made for the Hadrian Exhibition at the Israel Museum, and it gives you the entire process step by step. Of course, there are some details you will have to learn with research or by trial and error, but everything you need to get started is included. I like it as much for the excellent use of simple animation techniques to create the educational presentation (2D animation and stop motion photography, both tools first developed in the 1880s) as for the information contained within it. Whether you are looking to cast bronze or create educational videos, this is worth watching.

Hadrian / Bronze Casting Using The Lost-Wax Technique from Renana Aldor & Kobi Vogman on Vimeo.