Sunday, August 4, 2013

I got a new addiction.

Roller Coaster Tycoon 3. Actually a 9 year old game it still has a very active community, and after playing all original and all Soaked! scenarios in a row, I decided it's about time to create my own:

Watzensee - A Summernights Dream

Watzensee is already a well know wintersports ressort, and the cusine of Watzenseeblick is legendary. But to make this park profitable in summertime, too, you have to give you're very best - and beware of the Swiss "Vereine" that have much influence and put it to use.

Watzensee Scenario Released Watzensee Scenario Released Watzensee Scenario Released I made this my #1GAM entry, as I see it as mod, and the actual process was pretty much the same as with any game, idea, realization, playtesting, bufixing and polishing and it took me three days of work before I found it to be ready for release.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Security Confirmation Bubble

I know, I know, that sounds like the title of an episode of "The Big Bang Theory".

To better understand what I mean by this you first have to understand what a confirmation bubble is. When you have a certain view on a topic, you lean to only accept information that confirms this view. A logical fallacy that can be made worse with the selection of like minded social circles or even more so with Googles search algorithms that tailor search results to ones preferences.

So it's basically a problem securing that you develop blind spots to important information.

With my recent outreach to use more minority operating systems demonstrated to me a very dangerous one. The obliviousness of Apple and Linux users to threads to their systems security, usually combined with scapegoating Windows as the sole problem child. This arrogance pretty much leads to evangelists outright praising their respective systems for how it is not necessary to even think about security - and making their systems a feast for hacks.

You see, obviously people often think of security problems only as viruses and adware. Things that make their presence known pretty fast, and you won't find that many on either Mac OS X and Linux. But while those are pretty nasty for the desktop users, trojans that hijack your system to add part of their computing power to botnets, and part of that combined power is used to automatically hack the next system are IMHO worse.

Actually I lived pretty secure with my windows desktop, always being aware of security risks, but as soon as I had a Linux server directly connected to the internet, it was hacked. Two times actually. The first time a bot found a weakness in a badly configured Samba Server that was accidentally open to the internet, the second time a friendly hacker manipulated my system finding a security whole in a well known Open Source PHP solution. He only changed the starting page and left his contact. And these are the ones I knew about. Actually I stopped to use that machine to use it for anything other than using it as a firewall, and started using a Windows Server for any service I needed.

Sure, each time the problems were not directly related to the operating system, but it didn't automatically secure the system either. The Samba problem was so common that it was one of those selfhacking bots I mentioned, and we quickly found out about it, because it was so active that it used up the full bandwidth and I later learned that my machine hacked others by reviewing the protocols. That thing was badly constructed, while it nailed the hacking part it failed to keep its presence hidden.

Can you see why this Security Confirmation Bubble is so dangerous? It makes people of oblivious to the fact that, while the systems can be very secure, you always need to keep an eye on security, just using a certain operating system doesn't give you a "get out of that hell" card. Espacially Linux, while not so common on the desktop, runs most webservers. Rarely watched closely. Very yummie for hacks, like the Windows Desktop attracts spambots. If you get lazy because everyone tells you how secure your operating systems are and maybe even belittle windows users, in fact, you're not only contributing to your own insecurity, but to those of others as well, open up your system to criminal misuse.

Don't fall for it only because it is so uplifting and comforting. Just don't!

Networking

To be able to create iOS and OS X ports I needed a Mac, so I searched for the cheapest one that can still run a current OS X Version and ended up with the mini. Then Gamemaker integrated support for Linux and espacially for Ubuntus shop. And every try to install a virtual computing software on my Windows 8 system failed. My Core2 doesn't support Hyper V for witch windows abandoned the loved Virtual PC, VMWare somehow didn't run and Oracles Virtual Box even produced BSODs (nice touch, on Windows 8 the come with a sad smiley). So I had to create a physical Ubuntu System too. The thought of using it for all kind of servers for development purposes came pretty quick, but when my main system failed I found it to be even well suited for my social activities and office.

So when I planned my triple boot machine I not only did plan the infrastructure on that computer, but a new one involving the whole network. And the more I think of it, now that the triple boot system is ready, the more use I find for the two systems (Ubuntu AND the Mac Mini) that at first seemed so useless and only there for compiling and testing sofware.

The Ubuntu system will work as fileserver (SMB and GIT), Printerserver and Webserver, but the Mac Mini will also attend the party by providing the network access to all cloud-fileservers. Contrary to Linux there are clients available for all that I use (Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft Sky Drive, Ubuntu One) and it is really not neccessary to have each of the five operating systems replicate them on their own.

But the biggest change is not in the background, and for me personally, its kind of a revolution: I will seperate Work and social media and run the later on the Ubuntu system. That will help me to stay focused while sitting on the one workplace and using the Ubuntu desktop, that I so started to like for this tasks. So, beside games, I now prefer a Linux system for everything fun and see the Windows station only as workhorse. That's quite a change for me :-)

Having the windows system free of all that background workload does effect it immense, as I could see yesterday evening, when I logged in to Second Life, and experienced no frameratedrop under the magic 24 FPS, even when I had more than ten avatars in my view.

Wow.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I did it...

... I built a triple boot Hackintosh (, Windows 8 and Ubuntu 12.04) installation on my workhorse. Does it make sense? Yes, for frontend development, no for pretty much everything else. And so my pride that I managed it is mixed with mourning for a "wasted" workweek. This project was hellish and straining. First of all the Hackintosh installation was neigh impossible until I found out that with this special combination of board and gpu I had to active the onboard VGA graphics to be able to install it. I accidently found out about it when I was ready to give up. Up to that point I tried various bootmedia variants, including one that got me kicked from a very important forum when I mentioned it, and dis - and reassembled the GPU several times. At least, after I finally got it, I knew what two post installation tasks got the system stable and I could go on.

Next was the Windows installation. I bought the Update for about 40 USD last November, and while you could download a complete ISO, I was in for a bad surprise after making a clean install. A clean install didn't accept the update key, you had to install a Windows 7 before. Thankfully I found a small registry hack online the must be done directly after installation, and that came back to bite me, because I had to reinstall it so often. And I was pretty angry about the "Honest Customer paradoxon" here (meaning: As honest customer you get treated like a criminal with a lot of unneccessary, complicated copyprotection, while the pirate gets an easy to use version without all that hassle)

In that order, the final system is Ubuntu, and yes, that one isn't that complicated, but you have to be very carefull with some installation option, and I wasn't the first time, got it wrong the second time, and after reaching my third installation I had to reinstall the others several times, espacially Windows, as that registry hack only worked about half the time.

After the Linux installation you have to repair what seems to be an unholy mess of different partitioning types, but that did go surprisingly well. But there was the last step (or so I thought) of setting the OS X installation the active partition, because there would be a bootloader for all three systems. At first I tried it by the book with Windows. Didn't work, the options were grayed out, even after I activated the Administrator account to do it from there. So I tried Linux again, that system being the swiss army knife of OSes should easily do this task - but it didn't. Well it might be that there is the perfect commandline tool out there to do it, but fdisk warned my that it might mess up that aforemented unholy partitioning table thing. And I tried a desktop - discmanagement software, but that showed no information where it should, so I didn't trust it. Fdisk actually recommended one of the old GNU commandline tools, but its "man"-page was a reminder of the bad old days and did not tell how I could activate a partition, only that it could be done.

But I found a description on how I could make it from... no not the OS X installation, but its installation media, which boots to a configuration desktop that allows you to use a commandline, and there was an fdisk that could handle that complicated matter.

I needed two tries though, because OS-X has a small boot partition and my first try was to activate that, but its really the main partition that you have to activate.

I thought I was finished, but I didn't allow myself to feel too happy, because the whole process had tought me that it ain't over till its over...

... and I found out that I had no bootloader installed. So I installed one, but that one, like the OS-X installation itself, only worked with enabled onboardvga, which I had to decativate for the two other systems, so that too, needed another try (switching from Chameleon to Chimera was what worked out).

And than the final test. I booted to Mac OS X, Ubuntu, no problems, than to Windows 8 - and my PS/2 connected mouse and keyboard where missing (USB did work). Not my precious Windows installation! Again a few restarts to assure myself that I didn't just accidently deactivated something in the bios or destroyd it somehow with that shiny new bootloader but the others worked perfect, and there wasn't even an option in the BIOS that could affect the PS/2 connectors.

So I loaded the chipset drivers and installed them. And then, finally, everything seemed to work out.

But at least I have a very fine system now, and I do not only mean my machine, but the others too. I will configure the standalone Ubuntu as (partially versioning) fileserver, mediaserver and as my permanent access to all that social media. I won't install those on windows this time, hopefully helping me not to get distracted too easily.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Confusion

The fact that GameMaker wasn't running really put me off, I actually have pretty much used up my will to spent the time learning and administrating instead of being productive, none of which will earn me a living. I found out, that the installation was still on the file system and tried to start it directly, but Windows itself said the software is not for Windows 8 8o. It seemed like the problem was somehow related with the mild changes that lead to a needed reactivation and I thought about completely reinstalling the system. After all, I upgraded a Windows 7 installation which was older now, too, and my "c:" was always running full, because it initially was given only 100 GB and all the reinstallation of software on another drive didn't help there anymore. Doing some research I also found out that my Hardware was Max OS X compatible, so the idea of making a triple boot system (Max OS X Mountain Lion, Ubuntu 12.04 and Windows 8) came up and I actually prepared myself by backing up my data and tried to create a working installation medium. But it didn't work out till evening, when I was too exhausted to make another try, so my Installation was still intact and about 26 hours after my request, Steam finally answered. And their advice worked. I got my GameMaker back. So again I changed my plans, planning on using today to work on the game... only to find that a new feature was missing, and that was one I could use at the core of the game, yet I simply did not have an actual version of GameMaker. I start to hate the fact that I bought GameMaker on Steam. It's not that I cannot really work now, but I still feel challenged and the break in that reinstallation fest was somehow confusing - so I'm really tempted to go through with it first.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Some higher power doesn't want me to make games

Having back my Windows System and swallawing down the anger about the need to reactivate Windows 8 over the phone I thought I could finally go on with the development of a game I have in mind.


No. I cannot.

Hardware Blues

You remember the summer of '13? Ok, Ok, it's still summer technically but this year was unusually cold. Which is, I read, actually a good thing as the wide spread of mobile computing reduced the demand of paper, thus for the first time in at least a century giving the worldwide forests a much needed regrow pause, but also affects the already disturbed climate and thus lead to a very cold year. But suddenly there were a few days in between where the temperature jumped about 15° to 20° (Celsius / Kelvin) and this was, when I learned, that it was a bad idea, when I had a cooler failure last year, to quickly buy a cheap cooler to replace it. The new and cheap cooler couldn't handle the higher temperature, and I used the Mini Mac at the time because the main computer always froze. This lead to many things I wrote about in the last post, like putting the off time to good use and building the Ubuntu PC.

When the heat wave was over, I felt secure again, even doing some stress tests, one of which is entering Second Life. It worked, but I still experienced occasional freezing, and I started to watch the core temperatures. It couldn't be worse, given the least bit of load the temperatures idled around 100°C only a tick more and the system made an emergency stop and froze. So I decided to invest on a new cooler. And this time a really good one please. I broke my headset, too and needed replacement, so I paid my local dealer a visit and nearly my last money.


I decided to take the Skythe Mugen 3.

It had some of the best tests and the architecture made it easy to clean, a feature that couldn't hurt. Yet I had to nearly completely disassemble it to have full access to the mainboard from all sides to install the cooler. So I did it. Now I could see, why I got cooling problems after the heatwave:


Astonishing enough, the CPU was unharmed.

And killed my mainboard. This is actually a first, I never managed to kill a mainboard, even the one that is now in the open computer survived its unassembled state and several moves. Maybe that made me a tad bit too careless. However, that meant I had to order a new board which would take several days to arrive. Pretty handy that I now had two systems at hand that I could use alternatively, even if I couldn't do a lot of things, like development with GameMaker or Visual Studio or simply gaming. Well, I could access Second Life on the Ubuntu system that had my old GeForce 9800 GT in it, and actually the Second Life client worked about as well on my AMD 3800+ at 2Ghz with 2GB as it did on my 2.83Ghz Core2 Quad system with 4GB before I started upgrading that. I was honestly impressed. And the 'feeling' of the Ubuntu desktop was great, responsive, intuitive unlike anything that I had experienced with Linux after about 15 years using various Linux computers as workhorse. I did wet my toes and tried desktop variants, but that never really worked out, even early Ubuntu variants. Now its on a stage I would give an Ubuntu system to a non nerd. And what may be the greatest surprise, it was even better than the Max OS X Lion on the Mac Mini (which is a Core 2 Duo at 2 Ghz with 4GB, but only onboard graphics). I added the 560 GTX OC and a Full HD display from the defunct main system, but at least Second Life wise, it didn't make that much of a difference, there is a point when adding better GPUs doesn't do much more and the 9800 GT seems to be a good fit for that system. Actually, all in all it was so good, that in all those days I had to wait for the mainboard, I didn't switch once to work with the Mac Mini, despite that one having all the commercial software, like Adobe Products and Microsoft Office. But I prefered the use of Open Source software for a long time now, and am used to Libre Office and the Gimp, which run perfectly fine on all three system (which really is a plus for each of them) and used the time to train myself more on Blender, anyway.

Another thing I recognized was that the combination of a 5:4 1280x1024 display on the left with a Full HD display worked better than two Full HD displays. The 5:4 format is ideal for books or websites, wheras I use the right full hd display for the real work. When the "information screen" is to big combined with my workstyle of having a lot of programs open at the same time it gets too crowded, wide (thus away from my main field of view) and distracting.

So after using each system for a while, I can make my final verdict:

Usability

  • 1. Windows 7
  • 2. Ubuntu
  • 3. Windows 8 (Microsoft gets worse instead of better :-( )
  • 4. Mac Os X

Software availability

  • 1. Windows (any version)
  • 2. Max Os X
  • 3. Linux
Sadly, this second chart is why I'll never be able to switch completely and might still have qualms about recommending Ubuntu to average Joe, and I don't think this will change anytime soon. Not only is the most software that started out on Linux easily portable and free of political constraints to have it done by the community, even some projects that started out on Linux are now focused on the other two. I'm looking at you, Xamarin!
What I can and will do, is installing an Ubuntu on my main system as a second bootable os. I'm very curious how that will turn out.


It's alive again... and pretty crowded.

Back at my main System. Despite the fact that nearly no part of my main system is still what I once bought as a complete system 5 years ago, with one of the noteable exceptions being the CPU, and it being at least twice as fast now, (a lot more even when it comes to the GPU) and I had no problems with games thus far I begin to feel how its outdated. Well cooled it now runs better than ever, yet e.g. when it runs the Second Life client, its framerate drops significantly sometimes, depending on what visible and how much CPU pre processing is needed. Not stable enough to make Machinimas, a hobby that I actually experimented with and liked, but ultimatly stopped because I couldn get stable 24FPS (espacially with FRAPS running, too).

I plan on purchasing an i5 3770k and a fitting mainboard and ram, and to overclock it, in about two to three months, as my budget has to recover first... or should I go for the Oculus Rift first? Second Life will support it at the end of the 'official' Summer.

Oculus Rift
When I said I'd like an Oculus Rift for Second Life I didn't mean it this way ;-)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Uncanny silence?

Sorry for being so silent. It all started, when my landlord didn't pay my cable tv as said and my Internet, that comes via cable, was blocked. I spent one and a half month having my internet access reduced to the absolutely neccessary access with my mobile phone. It was an interesting experience. I had prepared blogpost mostly written here about my march project and how it didn't become what I first anounced, but a board game instead. The April project was Playmory for Mac. That may sound a bit lazy, but in fact I had a lot of work to get it, including buying, learning and setting up a Mac OS X system. Without online access, I couldn't even start Gamemaker, because the Steam version needs Steams online authentication, so my May game was a modified Poker where you have to haggle and collaborate above the usual betting. And my June game will be a board game, again. I created it at the start of the month. I really planned on 12 Software games for OneGameAMonth So what is my "excuse" this time?

Checking my Blog inworld

When I was offline and I could not work on a new game, I continued an abandon software project that is in fact one that I need, and every friend I tell about it, wants it too. I nearly forgot about it and concentrated on the much "cooler" gamedevelopment, but I really have to do it, because beside the fact that I need it, so do others, and so there is a market for it out there, which cannot be said for a certain game, before it stands the test of publishment. So - if I want to write games in the future I have to not do it right now ;-)

Open Computer...

Meanwhile I built myself a linux system, too, to be able to serve this market in the future (and as I have it, I will place a lot of services on it). Out of the parts of a computer that was never assembled because some small parts where missing that hindered me to assemble it as a desktop. Now I simply use it open. My 14 year old, once 6000$ display is still a beauty and now servers not only both the Mini Mac and the even-more-open-than-usual-Linux-computer, but also my Wii. So three systems at one workplace, not bad :-)

Mac Mini
3 Systems, one workplace

Also I used the time to learn a lot about the Adobe products and even got myself a drawing pad. Here is my first drawing:

Drawing

I plan to use Blender more and want to use handdrawn textures, too. With the new possibilities for the free Unity version of Unity I will try my hands on 3D gaming :-). And I need it for my Second Life, too ;-) Thank god I'm not completly new to it, e.g. I created the title screen for my January 1GAM in Blender (but not the models themself) and used a rendering from above for the sprites.

Future Startscreen for my game

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fragmenwhat?

Just yesterday I read a post in a group where a developer proudly presented how his game runs on pretty much any iOS device. But he could not do that without saying he would never develop for Android because of the Fragmentation issues. A similar thing happened today on Twitter, where @gaminghorror wrote "App developers: stick toiOS! Seriously: http://bit.ly/WHbzs7" and was heavily retweeted, the one I read first prefixed with "Holy cow! 80% of active device == 156 device models".

Actually, this makes me angry. I develop software since I'm about 11 or 12 years old, and I'm now 41. I've seen how the transition from Assembler and fixed hardware in a few systems (most sticked to the Commodore 64) broke the neck of many a famous game designer of this time, when not only "Home" computers started to have an operating system but also dynamic ram management and, oh my god, with the advent of later Amiga Versions and the big success of the pretty modular IBM compatible PCs it was over for them. They didn't think outside the box of full control and the comfort of pretty much knowing what hardware there is.

So gaming died out, didn't it?

Uhm, no. And not even consoles of today, despite having the same predictable hardware per franchise and iteration, work that way in coding anymore.

If you develop an AAA Title today, you either built or licence an engine, and its part of said engine to make sure it runs on as many systems as possible without bothering the game designers with it. E.g. Rockstar built the RAGE engine. While the engine has different code on any platform the game is available on, the parts that make an individual game, design, scripting and so on tough are the same. And that same engine makes it possible to have the game on a 640x400 display, as well as... holy cow, are these three Full HD displays? The engine is now five years old, but it was used in as recent (and different) games as L.A. Noir and Red Dead Redemption. That the later is console only is pure politics, not a technical limitation.

But that Rockstar is hardly an indie, and can throw 150 million us dollar on a project. So is that article on Flurry right, "Are Indie App Developers Becoming an Endangered Species?" and if so, is this because of Androids Fragmentation((c) Steve Jobs) issue?

Darn no! Well, may be simple minded ones that will go the same route as the 8 bit game developers, the ones that retweeted. See, not only is that assumption wrong, in reality its just the other way around. The breeding ground for applications (Apps ((c) Steve Jobs) has been the Web (first with CGI than more and more advanced languages on the server side), Java, Flash and now HTML5 and what they all have in common is an independency from a certain platform on the side of the user. And all had to manage the fact that they cannot exactly predict the size of the screen or even the means of input on the users side. Works like a charm on most systems, with the exception of one: iOS

meet the relevant part of the iOS SDK agreement:
"3.3.2 — An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs or otherwise. No interpreted code may be downloaded or used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple’s Documented APIs and built-in interpreter(s)."

So Java Runtime and Flash Player or anything like it are not allowed on iOS. And JavaScript (as in HTML 5) only works as Safari Module, which any other browser on the system has to implement to use it. Development for iOS pretty much means coding in the awful Objective C and some, maybe just some C or C++.

Good that there are still solutions out there. Like Xamarin that compiles from C#, or game engines like Game Maker or Unity. which are all in price ranges accessible to indies.

The article then lists the distribution of android mobile phones over so and so much percent of the android mobile market and compared that with the much smaller number of Apple mobile devices. That is pretty much irrelevant on two grounds:

Different screen resolutions. Actually I don't see the difference here. It starts with 320 to 480 on an iPhone 1 and ends currently with an iPad 4 at 2048 to 1536, all at 4 to 3, oh nos, wait, there is the iPhone 5 with 16:9. So you have to take care of that, too. So that's pretty much for anyone who wants to have the luxury of painting every pixel on the screen at an exact point. Espacially if the framework (the iOS SDK, see above) doesn't really support dynamic UIs. Ususally devlopers don't develop for anything less than the iPhone 3s anymore. With Android you have phones starting at a 200 to 320 display. But users of those don't expect to get the same apps that exists for other resolutions, if you wan't to support anything, lets say below 640x400 today, you have to create the UI for it, just as tablets often are better if you shape the UI accordingly. The most common formats are 640x480 (older or very cheap phones), 800x480 (cheap phones or tablets, and some last gens like the Galaxy S2) and 1280x720 (or 1280 × 800 with extra space for the Softkeys) and in the near future Full HD, 1920x1080. You may notice that those higher resolutions orientate themselvs on the standards for video, displays and TV. The whole reason the iPhone 5 broke the 4:3 ratio was because of that, too, but failed to adjust the pixeldensity. The very lack of support for dynamic screen sizes now hit them back, if they'd change that to a video friendly HD too, the developers would have rebelled, because they had to redo the whole layout, not just stretch it somewhere in the middle ;-)

Image: The Youtube app on an iPhone 5 before it was redesigned to use all the space, while on Android it scales pretty well, here on an Samsung Galaxy S3 in HD, like the video shown.

For games its pretty easy on both systems, you support 2 or 3 resolutions and scale the screen accordingly.

But those many, many different devices? Android itself provides a pretty good abstraction layer, espacially when you use Java, and if you need certain hardware, you can easily check in the code for it. So its pretty much a non issue that only becomes one, when you learned developing on a very limited platform and never done anything else. Speeking of fragmentation only shows every other developer that you are very closed minded, and can only move in a very small canvas, most likely provided by a certain fruit company. It's no coincidence, that the CEO of that company invented its use in this context. That guy was a marketing guru, not a developer, and if you actually listen to older speeches of him he once said the exact opposite. But I love the arrogance that is inherent in it. The whole world does it wrong, only Apple does it right. And you wonder why the rest of the world thinks you also believe in the Second Coming of Jobs?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

#1GAM Very early March preview

I spent a lot of time thinking of what I will do as next #1GAM. Again, it should be something that can be done fast, because this or the next month I have to move and will have nearly no time for it, and I must work on the marketing and the monetization of Playmory. Yet I had a first idea, but than a second rammed into it, and I began to search for easily available charactersprites for a few tests on NPCs and Pathfinding. So I ended up importing some of the 16x18 character sprites on Open Game Art. Than I needed something where the NPCs can interact, so I started to implement the map parts too. And since my first experiences with Game Maker have shown me it handles it better when it does most of the part I had to make most of the 16x16 fields of those an object of themselves, which means, by now I have am Objectcount far over 100, and since not every object got its own sprite(-object) they use the same with different image numbes.

more than 100 objects

It's not hard to guess what my next move is: A map / level editor. Yet one question that is a matter of taste bugs me. I will scale it up, because otherwise the characters are hardly visible:

(Click on the photo and than do that again on flickr to see the original)
A very early first look

Which one do you like more. The interpolated or the sharp, visible pixels? Retro would be more like the first, because in the 80's we had no HDTV ;-)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Good news and bad news...

... which one do you here first?

Well actually, the time you read this, it's to late to change the order and so I tell you the bad first:

I had to pull my published HTML 5 versions of Playmory. The instability of the sound mixed in with the cracked flow by fixed play length of sounds cummulated to a whopping 1.8 out of 5 rating. HTML 5, if it worked, would have gotten me a lot of attention with I now to have drive in by other means.

But the good thing is, that I got the Android the Android Version on the Google Play Store, Android Pit and even Amazons Appstore. It's really the medium where Playmory excels and is the most fun, and it shows in the first comments :-) Yet it wasn't as uncomplicated as it could have been, one store did reject the game, again because a default behaviour of Game Maker. It just registers every addservice you can use (and I don't, Playmory is free of any nagging) and permissions for that. I had a lot of trouble fiddling out how I can get the lowest possible permissions that let Playmory still run and updated it on all four markets.

My favorite (January) #1GAMs

The #OneGameAMonth challenge (in short #1GAM) had over a thousand indie and hobby, and-soon-to-be-indie game designers publish new games. I cannot say I played them all, and many deserve a review, but there were three games that stood out for me:

1. Blockulous

Platform: Android. Price 0,99 USD

A fun 3D physics puzzler it had an addictive effect on me. You am presented with a construct of blocks that might remind you of your childhood, and you have to remove some of the blocks to get one certain stone on the top of another. For just one dollar its a steal.

2. sync lab

Platform: Various, I'm not shure I found them all. Price from free to 0,99 USD 

I found the game in the Steam-Workshop for Game Maker, and loved it. You have to fill up certain spaces by cloning yourself and every clone makes the same move, which makes it quite a puzzler.

3. Super Grid Run

Platform: iOS and Android. Price from free to 0,99 USD


A really fast game where you have to dodge obstacles and collect some gems on the way. As simple as the gameplay is, as much fun it is.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Finally HTML 5 and Android

Today was a really good day. Despite the fact that I wanted to take it slow today, combined with my efforts late last night, I managed to debug the Android and the HTML 5 version. The later did only work with a compromise that breaks the flow of the gameplay somewhat - the Sounds are played for a fixed length now instead of as long as they are with a max of 5 seconds. A tester said on iOS you cannot here sounds at all :-( but it works well on OS X and Windows (if you tried it out on other platforms or browsers beside Chrome and Safari please feel free to tell me about it in the comments). Of all the versions I published now, the Android version is the most fun. You can sideload it here.

I like to spare the casual reader of what exactly was wrong, but you can read the details here if you like. Later I published the HTML 5 version on Clay.io and got it was authorized soon after. So you can play it there. I may add PBL (Points, Batches, Leaderboards) later on with the provided interface. I was thinking about some kind of arcade mode anyway. And yep, possibly advertisement and social functions (a ka nagging).



And after all that I spend a nice evening with my best friend in the city, visiting a sushi bar and watched Cloud Atlas. See, I still manage to "have a life" ;-)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Playmory - Post Mortem

I only started with #OneGameAMonth January the 25th, so after I finished just enough of Risc'n'Resc to call it a game with a start, middle and an end I wanted to do something less demanding to have spare time in February to really make something out of Risc'n'Resc. And as the theme "Sound" was announced I pretty quickly came up with the idea. Little did I know. My tool of choice is YoYos GameMaker, and it is easy, to see why. From one codebase you can publish to the mobile platforms Android, Windows Phone 8, iOS and Windows 8 RT, the desktop operating systems Windows (and with a Version bought from Steam, to the Steam Workshop), Windows 8 (a bit separate from the others), Max OS X and the "Joker" HTML 5 (at least a way to provide gaming fun to Linux, too). Or so they say, but I have to come to this later.

On Risc'n'Resc I worked until 5:30 a.m. the first here (which was still in the timeline that is dictated by US west coast timezone and I only slept 2 hours, because I had some fixed business dates in the morning. So I was surprised myself when I had a first visual concept later that day. And I was pretty quick and the next day I already  presented a first online video of the board creation animation:



At the 6th I already had a 2-4 player version running and began to develop the a.i. but than I recognized that the event system of GML was not really up to it, and I started refactoring on the 7th. On the same day, @McFunkypants, the creator of #1GAM (no chance in hiding the connection to twitter) anounced Demo Friday and to have a running demo, I used forked code - meaning an earlier copy of the directory, to create an executable of the aforementioned  mulitplayer version for windows. And while I did that, GameMaker overwrote my original files, because somewhere it is renembered - and I destroyed a days work of refactoring. In my youth, teachers called that "Learning by pain". I needed about 5 hours to get where I was  and than I created my own asynchronus eventhandling, which I published as free zip. And than I stopped.

I had already learned that it is not really a good Idea to use GameMaker for something that affords a lot of code. The engine helped me with the animations, but the IDE part and the language were horrible. GameMaker is ideal for specific kinds of projects, like this quick demo I did in about an hour:

Demo platformer

There was a lot going on after that as I decided to make Gamedevelopment my future and also that I will move from Z├╝rich, Switzerland to Berlin, Germany, which meant I had a lot to learn about Berlin, the best way to move, German laws, marketing for indy games and I started looking out for investment. Before I could think out loud "Crowdfunding" a potential investor contacted me, which cost me quite some time, too. I wrote a business plan, had endless talks, but in the end it was obvious that he promised more than he could do. Which means much of that time investment didn't even come to fruition. So I got back to the development of Playmory no sooner than the 22nd, not a full week until the deadline of the 28th. Lacking an easy documentable object structure I needed about a day alone until I was into the code again to further my work and even than I had to write the code for the a.i. twice, because with the data structures of GML my first attempt had no future. Unity, with C# as a "scripting" language (actually it's bytecode) looks sexier by the day.

Than again something happened. As a midweek special Steam sold the GameMaker Master Collection with all its export plugins for half the price. I reacted immediately and with some help from my best friend (I hadn't topped up my PayPal enough and have no credit card).

And after the update my project was a mess. I only could get it working again by creating a new project and manually rebuild all the assets and objects there, bit by bit... another useless day gone. But there was something that got me over that and that was Playmory on my mobile:

Playmory on Android

But while the Android export kept its promise, HTML 5, so important for my planned marketing affords, did not work. And that means, no Windows anything 8, because all of them are based on HTML 5 and a lot of configuration fu. But that was something I could puzzle out after the deadline, as it it got late... the 27th. Playmory was feature complete, but there were still some funny bugs, and as it later turned out, those were all problems with the GameMaker engine, sometimes acting in funny ways. After identifying them I could write failsafes into the code, but that is not really good coding, and it nags me that GameMaker forces me to do it this way. The last day, Yesterday, I then spent do as much polish as I could get into it before I finally called it a day just in time before the month changed (in my own timezone, this time). And guess what? The Android export had now a funny bug too. When I open the Credits splash screen, nothing very demanding, the app crashes. And with the Galaxy S3 I ran into a deadlock, which really shouldn't be possible, but may be I had no failsafe in place for this special situation, that only happens every 100th run or so.

Actually I was quite angered and wrote a request this morning in the YoYo support forum and guess what. No answer yet. At least I got a stable Windows version and could place that in the Steam workshop, where I quickly climbed up to the first page of "Most wanted this week" which saved me a place directly on the start page for GameMaker:

Yay, made it on the startscreen :-)

So my next plans? Finding out why it doesn't run well on other platforms and fixing that, before I even can think of more polish or more features for a next (most likely paid or with in game purchases) Version.

Some features I plan to act on:
Making the "dumber" A.I.s more human like, e.g. misplacing or forgetting sounds more the longer ago it was selected.
  • The tablet/phone setting where the players sit in the corners and the board is directed to them when its their turn. (It's pretty obvious why that wasn't a priority, is it?)
  • Making animations for collecting stones, changing player and for the final win.
Before I forget it: I made a product page for Playmory that you can find here where you can download the Windows version, too.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Premiere

This is my first entry, and as I'm late to my deadline for Playmory today, it will be a short one ;-)