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5. September 2011

 

You may have noticed many times on my blog that I am not the biggest fan of C++.  I hands down believe that it is one of the dumbest languages a user could learn with.  A good majority of programmers should never be exposed to C++ and should be happy if fate affords them such a luxury.  I also think a lot of C++’s use in game programming is as much a matter of traction as any other logical reason.  So why the hell do I talk about it so much?

 

Well one of the reasons is because so many (new) developers give a lot of other new developers the horrid advice that they should start with C++ that you need to actively educate people why this is a mistake.  However, there is another reason for C++’s coverage… it is important and it’s importance is on the rise. Amazingly that rise in popularity has nothing to do with (specifically) game development!

 

You see, the revolution in mobile computing coupled with the rise in indy developers has created a perfect storm of sorts for C++ developers.  You see, of all the mobile platforms out there, they all support their own native language ( iOS = Objective C, Android = Java(ish), Palm == HTML5/Javascript while Windows Phone 7 == C#/Silverlight ) yet all of them support C++ ( although WP7 requires a special relationship with Microsoft for C++ access ), to say nothing of Symbian… mostly because it’s dying off. 

 

Therefore, if you want to write portable code that runs across most of the mobile phones on the market today, C++ is your go to language.  Operating in a resource constrained environment is exactly where C++’s strengths come into play.  Unfortunately you are going to end up doing some device specific code in whatever the native language is, but on all devices this amount of native code is getting smaller in size.  For the most part you can make 99% portable C++ code, something you can’t currently do for smartphones in Java, C# or ObjectiveC.

 

That said, if you are willing to spend money, you can use C# across platforms in the form of Unity or Monotouch/Monodroid but that requires additional expense.  Besides, I recently took a look at Monodroid and I simply cannot imagine how anybody is using that platform for production code, at least on Windows the developer experience was frankly atrocious.  If I was doing a cross platform 3D game ( that I expected would make at least 400$ ) I would be ( and am ) using Unity, but I can understand why you would choose otherwise, especially if you were working on a 2D project.

 

If you are a new developer, I still recommend you stay the hell away from C++.  I just wanted to make it clear C++ has it’s uses and in my opinion is only going to get more popular, a comment I would have never expected to have made just a few years ago! As I have said many times C++ is just another programming tool and sometimes that tool is the most appropriate one for the job.

 

Given it’s justified rise in popularity among indy developers, combined with the fact that beginning programmers are going to ignore my advice and start with C++ anyways, I am going to introduce a bit more C++ specific content on this site.  The C++ of today is much different than the C++ of 1983, yet unfortunately a great volume of the information on the internet doesn’t reflect this fact.  I hope to address that to the best of my (meager) ability.

Programming ,

25. August 2011

 

In putting together content for this site, I find myself working in Visual C++ which presented an unintended consequence, the project folder’s files are big, huge in fact!  Most of the problem boils down to the intermediate files that Visual C++ generates for intellisense and pre-compiled headers.

 

Therefore each time I wanted to post a code example to this site, I had to go through and delete all of these temporary files or my archives would be huge.  Worse still, every time I open up the solution, they would be regenerated.  ( Yes, you can move these files outside of your folder as a possible work around ).  I figured with the whole me being a programmer thing, I could throw together a program that did this work for me.

 

Therefore I present to you ProjectCleaner.  Aim it at a folder containing your project or sln file click “Clean Project” and it will go through and delete all the temporary cruft ready for you to zip up and share.  For the record, it deletes log, tlog, pch, pdb and obj files as well as the ipch folder.

 

image

 

 

Here are the results after applying to a relatively simple project folder:

image

 

As you can see, it results in a 37MB reduction in size, which saves more than just a small bit of bandwidth.

 

So, if you are finding yourself needing to shrink your Visual C++ projects down to share them, this tool may prove useful.  The source is exceedingly primitive.  It’s written in C#, requires .NET 4.

 

 

Files:

 

CleanProject.zip  -- program executable

CleanProjectSource.zip -- source code

Programming

25. August 2011

 

I am currently working on a beginner level tutorial using SFML and just ran into a show stopper that I want to share.  If you are already using SFML 1.6, this is probably old news to you, but it caused me enough pain that I want to share it here.  Maybe someone in the future will find this on Google and they wont end up wasting a couple hours like I just did.

 

Anyways, I was developing away at my game and doing most of my work on my portable laptop, which has an integrated Intel chipset.  On occasion I did a little bit of work on my primary development laptop which has a higher end Radeon GPU and everything works fine.  Anyways, earlier this week Deus Ex: Human Revolution came out and PC gaming being what it is, I had to download and install the latest drivers.  Fast forward to today, I load up the project make a few changes and:

 

image

 

Completely hung.  Zero response whatsoever.  If I run the same application outside of Visual Studio, it requires me to kill it in Task Manager.

 

So I jump to the logical conclusion and figure it was something I changed recently in my code, so I start hacking and slashing out the changes until I am back to nothing.  Still hangs.  WTF?  Now I start hacking even more until the point I get to my main() consisting of a single return statement and still it hangs!  WTF x2?  Obviously at this point it’s a linker problem, and my lost likely culprit is SFML, so off to Google I go!

 

End result, yes, the dynamically linked version of SFML apparently has a bug with the OpenGL implementation of modern ATI drivers.  Yay.  Apparently it is only in the dynamic version of SFML, so you can switch to static linking and it will go away, but when writing a tutorial, this kind of added complication simply isn’t realistic.  That said, there is a work around and there is a fix... of sorts.

 

Apparently the problem is caused in atigktxx.dll and you can grab a copy that works here ( along with additional explanation ).  I haven’t an actual clue what the bug itself is ( it’s wayyyyyy outside my code ), but by including this copy of atigktxx.dll in your executable folder, it overrides loading the one that is installed on your machine, thus preventing the bug.

 

Oh, and although that post was in February and the fix is “coming soon”, the problem still occurs.  I do however believe this is fixed in the 2.0 version of SFML, but please don’t quote me on that!

 

So, long story short, if you are using SFML 1.6 and you want to support ATI cards with recent drivers, ship your game with atigktxx.dll in your executable directory.

 

Oh and moral of the story…  don’t always go blaming your code first!  I kow have a ton of damage to undo that I needlessly caused!  Moral number two…  ATI still suck at making drivers!

Programming ,

21. August 2011

 

When just starting out with Blender, figuring your way around the UI is probably the most difficult step.  One of the most difficult things to come to terms with is creating and closing windows.  This is something that changed massively from Blender 2.4 to 2.5, so a lot of the documentation out there is simply out dated.

 

This video shows you how to arrange Blender exactly how you want it.  Once you figure out the way things work, it is amazingly power, but it can be confusing at first.  The video is of Blender 2.59 and is shot at 1080p for maximum clarity.

 

 

Customizing Blender 2.59’s User Interface

EDIT (8/25/2011): Click here for Vimeo video.

Art

17. August 2011
 

I’ve been a little to focused on C++ I completely missed and forgot to mention that a new release of Blender, Blender 2.59 was release (*cough* 3 days ago *cough*). A ton of new bug fixes, include one specifically for exporting to Unity, have been addressed.  Additionally added support for 3D Mouse(s?), Custom Keymapping, an Ivy and Tree generator.

 

Click here to download now.

 

I will check shortly to see if it works “out of the box” with Unity.

 

EDIT: 8/17/2011  Nope, default export didn’t work.  Can’t say I’m shocked.

EDIT2: User woodn has provided an updated importer script.  Download it, extract the .py file and extract it to your Unity install directory /Editor/Tools folder, overwriting the existing importer.

After updating the import script it would successfully import dae files, but wouldn’t automatically process .blend files, at least for me.

Art ,

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