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30. June 2013

 

Some time back I purchased Codea for my iPad.  Codea is a Lua based game programming kit for creating iOS games on the iPad and frankly it’s really kinda cool.  That said, actually typing code on the device is a bit of a pain, so I looked coming up with an alternative.  It worked, but it certainly wasn’t ideal.  Today I was on the AppStore and I noticed Codea had an update and added something called Air Code, which allows you to connect to Codea using your web browser.

 

Using Air Code is really easy, in Codea on your iPad, open the side menu and select AirCode:

1

 

Then it will tell you the address to open in your browser.  Your computer and iPad need to be on the same network for this to work:

2

 

Open that address in your desktop browser and a list of your available projects will be displayed:

image

 

You then select the code file to edit and the editor appears:

image

 

As you code in the browser, it updates live on the iPad:

3

 

That is very very very cool.

Right now the editing functionality in the browser is quite limited.  It’s basically a text editor only now.  Hopefully in the future they add intellisense support and possibly debugging.  This is a very nice start though, and easily gets around the lack of keyboard support.  Nicely, this process doesn’t require a Mac either, any web browser should work fine.  Coding on one screen and seeing the changes reflect live on the other is actually a very intuitive way to code.

I did run into a small bug, in that focusing away from Codea to check email, when returning I could no longer connect via browser.  Shutting down and restarted Codea fixed the problem.

So, if you have an iPad and another PC and want to create games, Codea is a very cool product and worth checking out!

Programming, News , , ,

28. June 2013

 

I mentioned a little while back that I ordered a 14” Razer and there were some shipping issues.  Anyways, it is here now and I’m loving it.  I’ve noticed in search logs I have people landing here because they searched for Razer Blade reviews.  I figured I would share my initial thoughts and impression for people interested in this unique laptop.

 

Apple was an obvious inspiration behind the Razer line of laptops.  In an interview with The Verge, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan said:

I love Apple products," he says. "I think they do an incredible job in terms of industrial design. But, for us, it's also been an issue of creative professionals coming to us after Apple moved out of the 17-inch space."

 

I’ve owned several Apple products and I will admit this experience ( and price tag! Smile ) was by far the most Apple-like I’ve experienced on a non-Apple product, except perhaps my Sony Xperia phone.  It starts with the packaging experience on out.  My last Dell came in a brown box…  here is the Razer’s unboxing.

 

The box itself is actually a thing of beauty… not too many times I've even noticed the packaging of a product.

 

Box in the shipping packaging:

1

 

My new baby

2

 

The remaining contents…

3

Basically it’s the laptop, the power supply and a couple booklets and that’s it.  The box on the left is the power supply box, it’s pretty small.

 

That sexy box.

IMG_20130628_183329

 

Frankly that is what the Xbox 2 should have looked like!  I know at the end of the day this stuff doesn’t really matter.  It shows a level of pride though and an attention to detail.  Plus it makes you feel like a little kid on Christmas again… 

 

Now to the actual machine.  As a big part of this machine is it’s size, I’ll follow up with a number of close-up comparison shots, but for now, here it is relative to a 2012 Macbook Air, it’s Muse.

4

 

Now to the actual machine…  first off, it ships with Windows 8 and absolutely ZERO bloat.  Nothing at all.  What a refreshing experience not having to immediately re-install the operating system.  Drivers are all current and OS seems to be pretty up to date, it was pretty much a matter of start and go with this machine.

 

Specs

The machine itself has pretty solid technical specs:

Intel® Core™ i7-4702HQ Quad Core 2.2GHz / 3.2GHz (Base/Turbo)

8GB of RAM

GeForce GTX765M w 2GB DDR5

Integrated HD4600 GPU

14” 1600x900 matte display

256 GB SSD ( 128/512 available )

3USB 3 ports

 

The only thing that makes me a bit worried is the 8GB of RAM, it’s a tad on the light side by modern standards, but truth is, I rarely use that much even while compiling or doing 3D work.  The lack of ethernet kind of sucks, but the wireless works exceptionally well.  I don’t know if I can attribute that to Windows 8 or the chipset chosen, but the wifi performs MUCH better than all the other devices in my house. 

 

Performance and Benchmarks

One of the very first things I did was update the Windows Experience Index:

image

 

I’m kind of surprised by these scores across the board.  The Haswell Intel CPU scores respectably at 7.8, but the GeForce 675 GPU is easily the weakest link here.  It’s only about 20% higher than my 560M, that seems low to me.  I almost wonder if Optimus is to blame for the lowish Gaming Graphics score. The solid state drive scores respectably enough.

 

The GPU is a GeForce 765.  Here is how the GPU benchmarks relative to it’s peers according to notebookcheck.net

image

In terms of game frame rates, Bioshock Infinite clocks in at 80fps on high settings, while Crysis 3 manages 37.  In terms of actual frame rates, it seems to be about twice as fast as my Asus G53SX with a GeForce 560M.  It’s certainly not the fastest GPU, but its no slouch.  Its a fair bit faster than the GT 650M found in the MacBook Pro, the only comparable machine IMHO.

 

About Heat…

One big part about gaming laptops is managing heat.  On the whole the Razer does a pretty solid job.

This is the laptop temperatures reported at idle:

image

 

Now after an hour of gaming:

image

In terms of actual use, the wrist area gets slightly warm, ditto for the keyboard.  Not hot by any definition of the word.  The heat is almost entirely at the base of the screen, hot but not scalding to the touch.  Heat does vent out straight down at the screen bezel making it uncomfortable to game with it on your lap.  The bottom of the laptop itself is quite comfortable, except again right below the monitor.  It cools down very quickly, within 10 minutes or so of ending my gaming session, its back to normal temperatures.  If you game, do it on a table, not your lap.

By comparison to other machines, it handles heat much more quietly than my GeForce 560 equipped G53 and the head is much more localized.  It does however direct more of the heat downward than the G53.  The heat profile is actually very similar to the Macbook Air.  The Razer however is quiter than the Macbook and the surface area where heat is vented ( below the screen ) is much cooler on the Razer.  Over all I consider it pretty successful on heat venting, exceptionally successful on volume levels, but a bit disappointing about not being able to play with it on your lap comfortably, although that’s often the case with performance laptops, so I’m not surprised.

 

The Screen

The 1600x900 resolution seems about perfect for a 14” laptop.  I think 1080p would have been hard to read.  The viewing angle of the screen is exceptional, you can clearly read the screen from any angle from left to right.  Vertically its about +-30 degrees where visibility gets difficult.  The brightness is good, even using it outside in full daylight causes no issues.  The screen isn’t glossy at all, so I don’t have to look at my ugly mug’s reflection while typing.  The price though is a bit difficult…  When the screen is static it just looks…  muddy.  Like I can see small black spaces between pixels.  I am sure someone can describe it better, but when typing black text on a white background, it is very visible.  When gaming it isn’t.  It’s all a matter of opinion, but at the end of the day I like the performance of the screen ( brightness, viewing angle, etc… ) but I dont particularly like the look of it.

 

I’ve been asked to expand a bit on the matte effect on the screen.  I’ve tried to capture it as best as I can with a camera phone.  You may need to click the image to get the higher resolution version to clearly see.  The camera pic makes the effect look much much much much worse than it actually is.  The “grid” like effect is more like what you see in the top left or bottom right of the image below.  Again, the screen is nowhere near as bad as the screen actually is in use, but it gives you an idea of the grainy-ness that the matte screen adds.

 

The Battery

You may have heard the number 6 hours somewhere describing the Razer Blade’s battery life.  I honestly don’t think I could replicate this number… perhaps by turning the screen and CPU settings down to the lowest settings, turning off wifi and doing absolutely nothing for 6 hours it might work.  It’s only been a couple days so it’s hard to give exact figures, but my experience so far seem to indicate around 3.5-4.5 hours of casual use ( surfing, blogging, writing code ) on balanced power settings and screen at about medium brightness.  Gaming though is another story entirely.  I unplugged my laptop from 100% charged and played 15 minutes of MechWarrior Online.  This took 20% of my battery.  So basically you can expect about an hour of high CPU/GPU usage, kind of disappointing, but at the same time, pretty typical.  It’s better than my G53 which refuses to even run at full speed on battery and even still manages to get worse battery life than that!  Thankfully the power adapter for this thing is super light and small so you can carry it around with you.

 

The user wrecks over at this notebookreview.com thread just posted this video of a battery test:

 

The details were:

Airplane Mode
40% Brightness
Vlc Player using integrated GPU playing 720p Video.

 

The laptop lasted 3:47 minutes then shut down with 7% battery remaining.

Build Quality

 

It’s top notch, exactly what you would expect from a 2000$ laptop.  All the edges are solid, there is no flexing or mismatched edges, etc.  The hinge seems strong and the action is smooth.  The keyboard is excellent.  Keys are well sized, good action and feedback.  It’s a mini layout of course, so no page up/down, end, home, etc.  The trackpad is very responsive and feels solid as well.  The dedicated buttons are a nice option, you could actually game on this trackpad… poorly, but that’s still better than most trackpads.  It’s superior to the Macbook Air’s trackpad, which is shocking as it is an excellent trackpad.  The buttons though, they worry me.  If there is a weakpoint on this trackpad, it’s the buttons for sure.

 

I did run into a problem with the trackpad, I dont know if its a Windows 8 issue or a Razer issue.  It ships default with scrolling reversed, which is irritating as hell.  You have an option to turn it off in the touchpad software, unfortunately it only effects one of the scrolling settings.  For example, I had two finger scrolling and hotspot scrolling both enabled ( this is how it ships ).  When you set the flip option, it only applies to the hotspot scrolling.  Disable the hotspot setting and then the two finger touch scrolling will work once flipped.  Not a big deal for me as I only wanted two finger scrolling available anyway.

 

Conclusion

So, do I feel it was worth my 2 grand?  Yes, very much so.  It’s a fast capable machine and very portable.  The audio output from this thing is surprisingly good while the noise levels from fans is impressively low.  It gets hot while gaming, but in the right spots.  You don’t want to use this thing on your lap and game, but you don’t want to do that with most gaming laptops.  On a desk the heat is perfectly manageable, in fact, you barely notice it. 

I love the fact the machine shipped with no bloat.  There is no recovery disk/USB stick, which is a bit disappointing.  Losing 15GB of a 256GB drive to a recovery partition is a bitter pill to swallow, would be even harder if I ordered the 128GB model.

In terms of the hardware, it’s very well made, very solid with no flexing.  The lack of a ethernet port is disappointing but the wireless is rock solid.  The screen is effective but certainly doesn’t wow me, if that makes sense.

The machine is very one of a kind right now.  The size and performance combo currently cannot be matched, but you are paying a premium for that combination.  If you don’t need the performance, you can get comparably built machines much cheaper ( such as the MacBook Air, or some premium Ultrabook models ) but you wont get the performance to play modern games or running demanding applications.  You can certainly get higher performance ( but currently not much higher with laptops ) at a lower price… but these machines certainly push the definition of “portable”.  This is to say nothing about build quality… I’ve owned a number of laptops and this is easily has one of the highest build qualities I’ve seen.

 

 

Dimensions and comparisons

Given that the machines dimensions are a big part of it, here are a series of comparison shots relative to other laptops I currently own.  It gives you a pretty good idea of it’s size.

 

Here is the 13” 2013 Macbook Air stacked on top of the Razer, on top of a Dell Studio 17, on top of a 15” Asus G53SX:

11

 

Here are the Asus, Razer and Macbook Air from above:

12

 

Now here are the Razer and Macbook from the side.

15

Front:

13

Back:

14

 

I’m not sure I buy the claim it’s thinner at the thickest part than the MacBook Air.

Totally Off Topic

28. June 2013

I have been following the Loom Engine since it was first publicly released.  I even did a five part guided tour of Loom Engine functionality, so this is one that I've been keeping an eye on.  One of the major aspects of Loom was it was layered over top of Cocos2D-x, for better or worse.

Loom
(Sadly, not that Loom)

 

In this release, that has has changed.

 

Loom Engine

The Loom Engine saw a huge amount of work this sprint. You will notice substantial gains in performance and stability.

We shifted to the new bgfx-based renderer this sprint, improving Loom2D performance substantially and setting the stage to support DirectX and other graphics APIs. Cocos2DX is now unsupported.

We have extended Loom2D with some new features and filled in some missing features: 
* You can specify z-sorting mode to have C++ sort large numbers of sprites for you. This is demonstrated in IsoVille.
center() method on DisplayObject to set the pivot point to the center of the DO.
* Keyboard input now works.
* Touch handling is much better.
* TMX loading/rendering works (now implemented in LS).
loom2d.animation package is ported.
* Text rendering/text input works!
* Hierarchical alpha works.

All package names are lower case now. If you run a sprint27 project under sprint28 you will see a lot of errors due to this; we recommend doing a replace-in-files to replace all your import Loom2D.Display. with import loom2d.display. and so on - this will get you up and running within minutes. Don't do it by hand unless you like menial labor! :)

Loom projects now inherit from loom.Application and do not require a main.ls any longer. Cocos2DApplication and Cocos2DGame and Application are all combined now.

Feathers is now a standard Loom library and available to use in your projects!

The profiler works, and also reports a lot of object allocation statistics. Use profilerEnable and profilerDump in the Loom console to start it and have it report results.

Porting Feathers (50,000 lines of AS3 code) drove major improvements to LoomScript. Wins include:
is/as/instanceof now are compliant with AS3/JS standards.
* Allow {foo: "bar"} style Dictionary literals.
* Added NaN and isNaN, and some useful constants on System.Number.
* Convenience for porting: try/catch/finally parse, but the catch/finally blocks are never run. throw triggers a Debug.assert. Vararg type specification is now allowed (but does nothing). new <String>[] syntax is now supported for initializing Vectors.
Array is now an alias for Vector.<Object>.
* Fixed crashes related to printing too-long strings with trace().
Vector.push() is now much more efficient for pushing a single item.
* You may reference properties via super, ie, super.x.
trim/split work properly now, and are much faster.
* Added Number.fromString.
* Added a Base64 utility class.
* ByteArray gains uncompress and the position property.
Stage gains a method to dump the DisplayObject hierarchy; it also has a bunch of nice new methods for dealing with scaling/native size.

Loom CLI

Loom CLI's loom new template was updated to use the new Loom2D APIs as well as package naming convention. Also the default Curse Font color was changed to Blue, as the white font tended to disappear on the default background.

We added new commands:
loom gdb Launches the current Loom project under gdb to help debug runtime crashes.
loom gdb compile Compiles the current Loom project under gdb to help debug compiler crashes.
loom android release Prepares a release-ready APK! It has options to set the keystore and signing settings.
loom init Set up the current directory to be a Loom project. Mostly useful for tool developers.
loom build android --unsigned was removed

You can add --verbose to any CLI command to get more log output.

CLI now explains why it asking for your system password to update on OSX.

So, Cocos2D is out and a custom C++ renderer is in.  Additionally they added support for the feathers UI library as well as TMX loading/rendering.  There are other changes as well as numerous bug fixes, mentioned in the release post.  Loom is no longer completely free, although they offer a free option and quite reasonable pricing.  Of course, if you signed up when I first linked it, it's still free for you.

News, Programming , ,

25. June 2013

 

A few months ago during GDC, Havok announced Project Anarchy, which was a collection of their game development tools made available FOR FREE for mobile developers.  Then we had the long wait for it to go live.  Fortunately today I received the following email:

Havok

Hey Everyone,

Our team has been hard at work and is happy to announce that the beta version of Project Anarchy is now available to download!www.projectanarchy.com/download

We've also transformed www.projectanarchy.com into a community site which is loaded with resources to arm and inspire developers including:
  • The Project Anarchy Software
  • Online Discussion Forums for Community Support
  • Lessons & Tutorials
  • Videos & Documentation
To join our online community and download Project Anarchy, go to:http://www.projectanarchy.com/user/register

NOW THAT WE'VE LAUNCHED, WHAT’S NEXT?
There's lots of stuff in store for Project Anarchy and the Project Anarchy online community! Here are a few highlights…

Tech Updates
Project Anarchy will have regular updates that will include ongoing new features and enhancements and we already have our next release in the works with Android-x86 support due in the coming weeks.

Arming the Project Anarchy Community with Resources
We'll continue to build and refine Project Anarchy related resources including lesson plans, tutorials and videos that help make game development faster and easier. New resources will be available on the Project Anarchy online community.

Education for Future Game Developers
We'll be reaching out to schools around the globe and continuing to develop courseware to help future game developers learn the ropes and exercise techniques such as math, programming, computational geometry, simulation, and character animation. Lesson plans are available via the online community at: http://www.projectanarchy.com/training

Engaging with our Developer Community
We'll be attending a range of events worldwide to maximize our face to face time with developers, share beers and talk games. You can check out a list of all of the events Project Anarchy will attend, here:http://www.projectanarchy.com/events

If you are around for any of these events and would like to get together, let us know!
 
Project Anarchy Developer Contest
We'll be hosting a developer contest in the near future and are looking forward to seeing some great innovations resulting from the combination of your talent plus the comprehensive toolset that is Project Anarchy. More to come on this soon, so stay tuned!

BIG thanks to all of our followers for your support, excitement and patience. We hope you all have fun with the tech! Be sure to sign up for our developer community!

For more information on Project Anarchy, visit:http://www.projectanarchy.com/about

-The Project Anarchy Team

 

So head on over to the download page before their servers get swamped!

, , ,

24. June 2013

Picbox for PlayStation Mobile has just been cleared for release.  Here is Picbox in action:

 

 

So, what does this have to do with GameFromScratch? Well, I received the following tweets yesterday:

 

Tweets

 

Even got a mention in the credits! :)

Credits

 

I always loving hearing that I helped someone out.  Congratulations to @kesouk on publishing Picbox!  Here's to hoping you sell billions and billions of copies.  If you've got a PlayStation Vita or compatible Android device, keep an eye out for Picbox soon!

 

Of course, you can also check out the above mentioned PSM tutorials here.

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