Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pity Party

Take this as a fair warning: this post is going to consist almost entirely of myself complaining about things. It's probably best if you don't even read it. Come to think of it, it would probably be best if I don't post this at all... oh well.

This year (2012) has been pretty terrible for me. That's not to say that I haven't been fortunate. I have a job, a place to live, and I'm making decent money. All that is a-ok! The biggest problem is that I don't feel like I am going anywhere. The job I have is good, but it's not challenging creatively. I don't think it's a good use of my skills and I don't think the work I produce there is actually making me improve in any way (at least not that I can tell). The work I'm most proud of is the work I produce at home, and I'm usually too bushed after work to even attempt anything.

Earlier this year I set out to model a character a month; and too say the least, it hasn't gone very well. For a short time I was on a roll! I created the boy and his dog model inside of a month. After that I started work on the female character with the body armor.

But then opportunity struck. I was approached by a guy from England who was making a game and wanted me to model his main character! His concept art was fantastic and I was very excited to jump on board. We wrote up an agreement and I was going to model 4 characters for him, as well as rig and animate them. My quote for each character was about 900 dollars. He told me he didn't have that kind of money (which was understandable considering he was just a small start up that was looking for funding from another company) but he assured me that he had big plans for this game and that it was going to turn out wonderfully. It was going to be on XBLA, he said. Eventually he agreed to pay me $900 and then pay for the rest of the characters with profit sharing once the game was released. We signed the agreement and that was that.

Obviously, I dropped my current portfolio plans to work on this game. The new plan was to use all of these new characters in my next demo reel. However, as time went on it became more and more apparent that this guy barely had any knoledge of game creation. He was just a traditional 2D artist and it seemed making a 3D game was a bit over his head. Nonetheless, I worked through the murkiness and finished the first character (the main character) and animated him in around 60 hours. The dude gave me a 50 dollar bonus for completing it quickly. The rest of the money would come in 300 dollar installments at the end of each month.

I then sat and waited for concept work of the remaining characters to be sent to me. A few weeks came and went. I decided to jump back onto my portfolio work and put some time into my armored female character, but this game project continued to loom in the back of my mind. The end of the month (when the first part of the pay was due) came and went. The guy ignored some of my emails but finally responded. He said simply that the game wasn't going to work out (I assume he didn't get the funding he was hoping for). I asked if I was still going to get the 900 bucks for the first character I made but I never got a single reply back from him. That was months ago now, and since he's over seas, I'm not sure how well pursuing him would do.

Putting all of that behind me, I jumped back onto my portfolio work. But as my models were becoming more and more detailed, it became more and more apparent that my 6 year old computer was straining under the pressure. Seeing as a lot of my friends had built their own computers for a lot cheaper than a pre-built one, I was advised to try building one myself. I then embarked on a 3 month journey to collect the parts necessary to build a monster of a machine that was sure to chew up any amount of polygons I could throw at it and spit out beautiful renders in a short amount of time.

The day finally came to start building and I took all of the parts to my friend's basement. The whole thing went together fairly smooth and with great anticipation we fired it up! Everything turned on but the screen was blank. The motherboard indicated there was a problem with the processor. Upon further inspection, we found that a number of the pins in the CPU bed were bent, twisted, and missing. This being my first computer, I didn't even think to check on that kind of thing before hand. I still believe with all of my might that I had nothing to do with those pins being damaged, but i'll be damned if ASUS will ever believe me. With the bent pins voiding the warranty, I was instantly out 200 bucks.

During this time, my grandmother had passed away and my family fell into a small depression. After the motherboard failure, the family dog suddenly passed away and everyone got a whole lot worse. Everyone is still trying to recover from that loss. The house has felt completely empty since then.

Once I was sure that getting a replacement board from ASUS was hopeless, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a brand new motherboard. This time I went with a Gigabyte board because I never want to give ASUS another dime of my money. The new board arrived within 2 days! Everything was great. The pins on the processor bed looked pristine. My hopes were so high! ...big mistake.

We went back to the basement and carefully assembled the new machine. Nothing. This board wouldn't even boot up. It had power but wouldn't stay on for more than a second. We unplugged everything except for the power and it still had nothing. The little LED codes at the bottom of the board were trying to show us a signal indicating what was going wrong, but the codes it was displaying weren't listed in the board's manual. Looking online we couldn't find a single listing of this happening for anyone else and couldn't find any explaination of the strange codes the board was giving us.

At this point I gave up all hope. For weeks I've had over 1000 dollars worth of parts taking up my friend's basement and absolutely nothing I could do fixed the problem. Every bit of money I tried throwing on the fire would not put it out. So it wasn't much of a surprise when I went home and my current PC's graphics card started to die. The fan stopped spinning on its own and started moaning loudly. I can no longer use anything of high graphical intensity in fear that the card will fry, meaning that all of my 3D programs are out of commission.

This is currently where I am. I am sitting here with barely any computer at all. My portfolio is no where near completed AND I have to go back to the same old same old job tomorrow. I have no directions as to what to do now. Nothing works. It's completely baffling!

Because of all of this, I am a tad depressed. I hate venting and complaining online, but I seem to go ahead and do it anyway, so take it for what it is. My apologies to anyone whom actually read through all of this. If my problems seem petty, I'm sorry. I realize everything could be a lot worse, but for me, in terms of my life, I think this sucks. I hope yours is better.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

ASUS Motherboard RMA

I am creating this blog post as a public record for the RMA process of an Asus motherboard I recently purchased from TigerDirect.

Over the past 3 months I have been ordering parts for a new computers from One of the first parts I bought was an ASUS motherboard and an Intel Processor.  I made that purchase from TigerDirect on 6/29/2012.

3 months later, I finally have all of the parts and start assembling. (I'd like to note here that the plastic baggy holding the motherboard inside its box was not sealed. I'm not sure if that's standard or not) Everything turns on and works fine except for the processor. There is a red light lit up on the motherboard that indicates something is wrong with the CPU. We take out the processor and put it back in, but still nothing.

We then inspect the pins on the motherboard itself. It appeared that the bed of pins was not complete. This being my first computer build ever, I never thought to look over the motherboard before hand (I wouldn't know what to look for even if I had!) A number of the pins appeared to be bent and there was a patch that looked like some of the pins were actually missing entirely (photos soon)

I tried to think if I or my friend could have caused this damage, but it doesn't seem possible. The motherboard comes with a little protective cover over the CPU pins that you have to remove before installing the processor. The cover is thin plastic and shouldn't have been able to bend those pins down (and especially not pull any of them out). While handling the processor itself, I was extremely delicate because I was scared to death of harming it. I gently placed it onto the pin bed before locking it down, but even then I was afraid to press down on the locking bar too hard because I didn't want to bend anything.

Now that I new that there was damage, I looked all over inside the machine to try and find any loose pins to see if maybe we had knocked them out some how. We couldn't find any.

Defeated, I sent an email over to TigerDirect, hoping to be able to send the board back for a replacement. On 8/24/2012 I got a reply email from their customer service saying I would have to contact the manufacturer directly. They directed me towards XFXforce's web site. When I got there, I noticed that XFX was a graphics card company and not the company that made my motherboard. ASUS was the manufacturer of my motherboard so I went over to their site. I entered in my serial number and found my board model. I filled out the RMA form on 8/28/2012.

On 8/29/2012 ASUS directs me to another of their departments and tells me to fill out a second (shorter) RMA form. I fill it out that day (with the same information as the first form) and send it. The confirmation email says that I should hear from them within 48 hours (or 2 business days).

On 9/2/2012 I still hadn't heard anything from them (granted it was a holiday weekend) so I decided to just give them a call. I got on the line with a Mr. Aaron Harris. I gave him my case number and he pulled it up. He then tells me that they have no way of telling if I personally caused the damage to the board and therefore cannot replace it. But he says if I would like to pay $120 dollars, I can ship it to them and they can try and repair it, but adds that trying to repair bent pins is very difficult to do and might not even do any good.

I can understand that they don't know whether or not I damaged the product myself, but they also don't know whether this product showed up to my door damaged. I didn't damage the product (to my knowledge). I'm not trying to swindle anyone, I just want a replacement motherboard that actually works. I asked him what the possibility was that they just slipped up and sent out a damaged motherboard and he just kept telling me that they quality test all of their boards (by taking every 3rd or so off the line and testing them). Obviously mine wasn't one of the ones tested.

After a bit more complaining on my part, I managed to get his personal email and he requested that I take some photos of the pins and email him so that he can further look at what we are dealing with. He said he may even bring his manager in if need be.

Here is one of the pictures I sent to him

I sent him an email with the photos that day. I didn't hear anything back for a few days so on 9/6/2012 I sent him a follow up email asking if he had gotten around to looking at the pictures.  Later that afternoon a "call center manager" replied saying that he was forwarded the email and promptly said ASUS has a strict policy stating that bent pins instantly voids warranty but that I could pay a fee to have the part repaired or replaced. I asked how much it would cost to just replace it and he has yet to reply

It just seems a little ridiculous that I can spend 220 dollars and get absolutely nothing for it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Harry Truman

I jumped in on that SHOWDOWN competition over on the Art By Papercut forums. I'm pretty sure they're new because I've never heard of them prior to now, but the competition sounded kinda cool.  You can check out my thread here: I've got a few ideas for my historical figure: Harry Truman.  I have until the end of November though, so I'm going to try and finish some of my other work for my demo reel before I devote all of my time to Mr. Truman.

Speaking of which, THIS CHARACTER WILL NEVER END! I continue work on this girls armor. 

I... I don't know if I will ever see the completion of this character...

I keep finding things wrong with it...


...but it must be FINISHED!!