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13. November 2012

In this world of cheap mass market cross platform game engines like UDK and Unity, the barrier of entry to creating a polished game have never been lower.  Except of course when it comes to art that is.  Take a quick look at GameFromScratch's 3D application list for an idea of what kind of prices we are talking about here.  There have been a few options on the lower/cheap end with Blender and the GIMP being the two most popular free options.  There are a few other options, like the MacOS only Cheetah, the now-defunct Silo or Shade Basic available for a hundred dollars or so.  The next jump up is to applications like Modo and Cinema4D, both with a price tag nearing or over the 1000$ mark.  From this point we jump drastically to the various Autodesk applications, all with a price tag in the many thousands dollar range. 

 

Simply put, if you are creating your first game, perhaps a mobile title on a truly indie budget, if you don't like Blender or aren't breaking the law, you are pretty much screwed.  Sorta.

 

Autodesk Maya actually has an incredibly interesting option available.  You can now license Autodesk 3D Studio Max or Maya 2013 for 90 days for a price of 199$.  Yes, that is a full commercial license, so you can ship a game and make money on a 90 day license.

 

1. What are Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya 90-day fixed term licenses?
90-day fixed term licenses*, sometimes referred to as “project licenses,” are fully
operational, commercial licenses of Autodesk 3ds Max 2013 or Autodesk Maya 2013
software that enable a license holder to use the software for a period of 90 days only.

2. Can an Autodesk 3ds Max or Autodesk Maya 90-day fixed term license be used
for commercial purposes?
Yes, unlike the free, 30-day trial which can be used for evaluation purposes only, you can
use a 90-day fixed term license of either Autodesk 3ds Max 2013 or Autodesk Maya 2013
software in production for commercial purposes.

 

You can read the complete FAQ here (PDF LINK).  You cannot renew the license, so be sure that you can complete your project in 3 months or you will need a full license.  You can however also get a 30 day trial of either Max or Maya ( which you can't ship using ) to get started, giving you a total of 4 months to create your game.  

 

That covers you on the 3D side, what about Photoshop?  Well, you have options there too…  The Photoshop CS suite normally has a price tag around a 1000$.  A while back, Adobe started offering their software on a subscription basis for about 50$ a month.  Interestingly enough, since then they have started offering Photoshop for as low as 20$ a month ( with a year commitment ), or for 30$ a month on a pay as you go basis.

 

Also like Autodesk, they offer a 30 day trial.  Therefore, if you are able to create your game in less than 4 months, you can legally use Photoshop and Maya (or Max) for a total price of 289$ ( 199$ + 30$ x 3 months, + 1 month trial ).  

 

Four months might not seem like enough time, but it is actually a reasonable development window for a typical mobile game, especially if you are working full time.  Hopefully your game will then be successful enough to justify and pay for full licenses for both products.  Another interesting side effect of both license structures is they give a credible ( and affordable ) pathway for pirates to go legit if they are using pirated software.  

Art

13. November 2012

 

Almost exactly one year ago today, I wrote this post discussing the impact a change in leadership at Microsoft had on all our lives.  The TL;DR version was, two senior VPs at Microsoft went head to head over the future of the company, one lost ( J Allard, father of the Xbox ) and one won, Steven Sinofsky.  Well, as of today, it is looking like Microsoft picked the wrong horse!

 

Simply put, after shipping Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky announced his departure.

 

This can have a pretty profound effect on future directions at Microsoft.  The fallout from J Allards departure were pretty massive.  From a developers perspective, lets see…  XNA has been axed.  Windows Phone 7.x has been axed.  Silverlight has been axed.  The Courier tablet was axed ( imagine the difference the world would have seen if Microsoft entered the tablet market *before* the iPad??? ). We now have Windows 8 as the target for every device, the Windows Store ( I have a feeling this one is an accountants decision, not Sinofsky’s ).  There have even been some micro-level changes as a result.  We have the increased focus on C++ and JavaScript at Microsoft, and the decreased focus on .NET.

 

What’s going to come next?  Who knows actually… and that part is kind of scary.  Agree with his decisions or not, Sinofsky got stuff done and had vision.  Is there a leader remaining?  It’s certainly not Ballmer, that man has been making epically stupid knee jerk decisions since taking the helm.  ( 34 billion for Yahoo?  8 billion for Skype?  )  I really don’t know what is coming next, but I will tell you one thing… up until about 8 months ago, I held Microsoft stock.  I sold it and if I held it today, I would be on the phone to my broker now.

 

That’s the shame too, as Microsoft has managed to recruit some of the best A-list programming talent in the world.  Too bad they can’t do the same thing for their management.  Then again, you aren’t going to fix management at Microsoft when you have an idiot at the helm… they tried that once bringing Ray Ozzie in and Ballmer pushed him out.

General, Totally Off Topic

10. November 2012
TITLE_IMAGE

 

RIM is hard at work on Blackberry 10 and they continue to focus heavily on making sure there is plenty of software available at launch.  Now they are targeting game developers with the newest promotion.

 

Got game? Get Rewards.

 

The BlackBerry Got Game Port-a-Thon starting on November 16th is a 36-hour event dedicated to helping you get your gaming apps launched for BlackBerry 10. Since it’s a virtual event, participating is simple and hassle-free. You just register and log in from the comfort of your own space. You bring your existing gaming apps or build new gaming apps for BlackBerry 10, and we’ll have experts on hand around the clock to help you get your gaming apps up and running on BlackBerry 10.

 

So, why would you want to?  Well of course other than supporting an additional target, there are additional incentives:

 

Getting your apps into the BlackBerry App World storefront before BlackBerry 10 launches means that you can be among the first to benefit from the universe of app-hungry customers out there. You’ll also get rewards for porting and building.

  • Get one or two gaming apps approved – $100 per eligible app.
  • Get between two and five gaming apps approved – $100 per eligible App and one (1) BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet
  • Get between five and ten gaming apps approved - $100 per eligible App + one (1) BlackBerry PlayBook tablet + FOR THE FIRST ONE HUNDRED (100) QUALIFIED PARTICIPANTS ONLY one (1) Dev Alpha Device
  • Get more than 10 gaming apps approved - $100 per app + one (1) BlackBerry PlayBook tablet + FOR THE FIRST TEN (10) QUALIFIED PARTICIPANTS ONLY one (1) Dev Alpha Device + trip to Game Developers Conference in San Francisco March 25-29, 2013

 

So, port 10 apps over you get 1,000$ a Playbook and a dev Alpha device.  Of course, if you were looking to port your game to Blackberry OS 10, having the resources available on demand could prove invaluable.

 

I have a Playbook myself and have long since intended to look into game development on this device.  I really want to see RIM bounce back this generation for a number of reasons.  First, they are really moving in the right direction from a developer perspective with good developer tools ( WebWorks and QNX ), sponsoring projects like the Gameplay SDK, the next generation of software and hardware seems to be really good and finally, they are in my own back yard, I live probably 45 minutes away from their world headquarters.  Oh, and I own RIM stock, so I suppose I should mention that.  Then again, indirectly pretty much every Canadian owns RIM stock.

 

So… go RIM.

News ,

9. November 2012

I recently hosted a guest tutorial post on using Moscrif, a new Javascript based cross platform, game focused development environment.  Thing is, I myself haven't really had a chance to check out Moscrif myself.  In the past I did try out a Moscrif Logosimilar environment Appcelerator Titanium, which for a couple of reasons, I chose not to keep using, many of which aren't actually Appcelerator's fault (the no other word for it, complete crap Android emulator, was the biggest drawback). 

 

Moscrif on the other hand is a bit different.  Like Appcelerator, it's cross platform, mobile focused, JavaScript based and comes with it's own IDE.  Unlike Appcelerator it ships with a simulator you can use for stage 1 debugging, removing the biggest headache.  Perhaps most important of all for readers of this site, Moscrif is also game focused while Titanium is not ( yet ).

 

So, I've decided to take a bit closer look at Moscrif, over a couple of posts.  First off, this is *not* a review.  I certainly haven't put enough time in with Moscrif to even consider reviewing it.  Consider it instead a tour of features available as well as my initial impressions.

 

So, what then is Moscrif anyways?

The above description is pretty much accurate.  Moscrif is a cross platform JavaScript based IDE/language/library for creating mobile applications with a focus on games.  If you've ever used Appcelerator Titanium, you've got a pretty good idea of what you are getting here, just with a more game oriented focus.  The tools run on Windows, Mac and Linux, while you can target iOS, Android and oddly enough… Bada, with a single code base.

 

Installation process

Moscrif install was easy enough, but theres a catch.  You need to create an account (which you can do here), and like the Corona SDK and Appcelerator, you will need to log in to do anything, making an always on connection pretty much a much.  Unfortunately this login process is required even if you are just using the basic version.

Otherwise the install process is pretty much a no-brainer.  In my case I am using Mac OS.  You simply download the package and run a pair of installs.  Moscrif depends on a particular version of the Mono framework, which you need to install first.  It is included in the downloaded package, so simply download, run the Mono installer then the Moscrif installer, that's about it.  You can download (and register) right here.

Once you've finished installing, the first time you run Moscrif you will have to log in with your Moscif account.

 

A first look at the IDE

Load up and log in to Moscrif and you will be greeted by the screen:

IDE Screenshot

 

As you can see, it's a pretty complete and traditional IDE.  Your project management window is on the left, your console and debug windows are across the bottom and the remains of the window is for code editing.  You can use the icons at the top right to toggle sections of the IDE on and off.  I do have one immediate annoyance though, I am running on MacOS and there is no ability to maximize the window, or whatever that feature is called.  Considering that single feature is what makes Mac tolerable to me, hopefully support is added soon!

 

Hello World

To get a feel for the application, let's create an extremely simple Hello World project.

To get started, select File->New->New Project.

In the resulting dialog, choose 2D Game and name your project, I went with Hello World. Like so:

NewImage

 

Now in the next dialog, keep Game2D selected and choose Finish.

NewImage

It will have created a project for you like the one pictured to the left.

 

Main.ms is the file we are most interest in, it is the main entry point of your project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now replace the code in main.ms with the following:

include "lib://game2d/game.ms"

 

class HelloWorld : Game {

    function start()

    {

        super.start();

        this.paint = new Paint();

        this.paint.textSize = 72;

    }

 

    function draw(canvas)

    {

        canvas.clear(0xffffffff);

        canvas.color = 0x000000ff;

        var (w,h) = this.paint.measureText("Hello world")

 

        canvas.drawText("Hello world",System.width/2 -w/2,System.height/2 -h/2, this.paint);

    }

 

}

 

new HelloWorld().run();

 

As you can see, Moscrif is very similar to JavaScript with some obvious extensions, such as class or multiple return values.

Now let's run our new application, which brings us to...

 

The Simulator

Across the top of our screen are the simulator controls:

NewImage

 

Simply click Run, and the iPhone4 simulator will run.  Voila:

NewImage

 

You can control the Simulator with the following hotkeys, although the rotation keys don't work if you don't support landscape changes in code.  I also had a bit of a fight getting F11 and F12 working on Mac, but that is more an OS issue than a Moscrif issue.

 

Operation Mac OS Linux Windows Moscrif symbol
Take screenshot F12 coming soon F12  
Rotate left F11 F11  
Rotate right F11 F11  
Left functional key F1 F1 #left
Right functional key F2 F2 #right
Send / Green / Talk F3 F3 #send
End / Red F4 F4 #end
Back Backspace Backspace #back
Ok / Centre key / Confirm Return Return #ok
Volume Up F6   #volumeUp
Volume Down F7   #volumeDown
Camera F5   #camera
Power     #power
Menu F8   #menu
Home F9   #home
Zoom In Cmd + (=) Ctrl I, Ctrl +  
Zoom Out Cms - Ctrl O, Ctrl -  

 

As you can see from the display options, there is a decent number of profiles pre-configured.

NewImage

 

I did run in to a few issues, when I switched from Iphone3 to iPad, then implemented screen rotation, only a 480x320 portion of the screen was rendered.  That said, having a simulator layer massively improves turn around time, especially when working on Android where the emulator is pure garbage.

 

Publishing

The simulator is nice, but at the end of the day you are going to want to run on an actual device.  That process is actually quite simple.

Simply select the menu Project->Publish

The following dialog will appear:

Publish Dialog

 

 

Select your OS as a tab at the top, click a checkbox beside a skin and click the Publish button.  You can totally tell a programmer wrote this dialog… Reset Matrix?  Really? ;)  Coincidentally Reset Matrix is simply De-select, if you are curious.

After clicking Publish, Moscrif will churn away for a little bit and a Finder/Explorer window will pop up with your APK file ready for deployment.  I have to admit, this process is quite impressive, as it doesn't require you to install the Android tools, mess with any environment variables or any of the typical fun.  If you are just starting out, this is about the easiest way to generate an APK file I've ever seen.  Coincidentally, the APK was about 4MB in size, which is pretty impressive.  When using Titanium, a Hello World measured in closer to 10MB.

There is however a downside (one Appcelerator Titanium shares), you can't currently debug on device, which sucks.  You can log/trace back to the IDE as your program runs, but that's it. There are a whole class of bugs, especially on Android, that only express themselves on an actual device, so this can get a bit annoying.  Let's hope the simulator does a very good job of, well, Simulating.  Fortunately, on device debugging is a very near term item on the roadmap of features.  Even more confusing, it doesn't appear you can debug in the simulator either, other than debug logging.  I have become so used to being able to set breakpoints and step through code, it feels like a major omission when I cant. Hopefully this functionality gets added, at least to the simulator. Or perhaps I simply overlooked the functionality somewhere.

 

Other stuff and closing thoughts

The IDE is fairly easy to come to terms with.  What you see is pretty much what you get, there aren't a hundred menu items or nested dialogs, and there really doesn't have to be.  The code editing tools are pretty impressive, with good legible errors displayed in realtime.  There is code completion, it's quick and appears to work exactly as you would expect it to. Otherwise it's a fairly barebones but functional code editor.  There is smart tabbing, find/replace, code suggestions/completion, hover-over code tips and code folding and thats about it. For more advanced editing, such as refactoring, you need to move to a more dedicated text editor.  Truth is, in 99% of occasions, the IDE is a perfectly capable and even enjoyable place to edit your code.

Next is the area of support and community.  Let me start with the bad, community.  I am not saying the community is bad, more… missing.  One of the downsides of being a fairly new product is the lack of information online.  When you run in to a problem on Moscrif, there isn't yet a large community to turn to and Google won't come to save you.

Now, the good.  Moscrif's documentation ROCKS.  It staggers me how good of a job they have done.  Theres a pretty good step by step documentation that walk you through many of the features with code examples.  Where Moscrif really shines though is the reference materials. It's comprehensive, complete, timely and almost always comes with a code sample.  The reference material goes a long way to minimizing the lack of community…  you don't have as many people out there to answer your questions… but you have such great documentation that you don't really have any questions in the first place!  If you are middleware publisher and want to know how to do documentation… look no further!

I haven't really gotten the chance to really dive in and code.  That said, what I saw in my initial inspection certainly have my interest piqued, so I will be looking at the code side of things shortly.  So stay tuned for a more detailed hands on with the code in the future.  I am impressed by what I've seen so far.

 

Pros

  • it's JavaScript based
  • no external dependencies. No need to install other tools or SDKs. Fastest way I've seen to build an Android app yet
  • small executable size for the type of tool it is
  • EXCELLENT reference materials
  • all in one, easy to get started, reasonably complete
  • simulator makes for fast dev turn around times
  • JavaScript language enhancements that fix some of JavaScript's warts
  • Fast OpenGL based performance

Cons

  • it's JavaScript based 
  • lack of online presence, forum software is terrible and finding information not in the documentation is difficult
  • internet connection required
  • debugger needs improvement and basic debugging features ( breakpoints, inspection, etc ) added
  • it's young and relatively unproven 

 

Stay tuned for a later post when I look at Moscrif from a coding perspective.

 

General, Programming , , ,

8. November 2012

As I've been working more and more on Mac these days, I've been looking for a Mac based blogging solution and I ended up purchasing MarsEdit.  Everything worked out pretty well, except pasting highlighted source code.

 

I finally solved that final piece of the equation using a product in the middle, SublimeText.  Before continuing, you need to install the plugin Sublime Highlight.  To install, simply git clone the package into your Sublime Text packages folder, like so:

cd ~/Library/Application Support/Sublime Text 2/Packages/
git clone https://github.com/n1k0/SublimeHighlight.git

Now start up SublimeText and you should see an additional option in the Edit menu, Highlight:

 

Sublime Text edit menu

 

Now all you need to do is edit your sublime preferences, choose Preferences->Package Settings->Sublime Highlight->Settings User.

It will open an empty config file, simply add the following:

{

    "theme": "murphy",

    "linenos": "inline",

    "noclasses": true

}

 

The most important value there is noclasses, as otherwise MarsEdit will strip the formatting when you paste your code excerpt.  Theme is the syntax highlighting theme to use and can be one of the following:

  • autumn
  • borland
  • bw
  • colorful
  • default
  • emacs
  • friendly
  • fruity
  • manni
  • monokai
  • murphy
  • native
  • pastie
  • perldoc
  • rrt
  • tango
  • trac
  • vim
  • vs
Now simply paste your code example in Sublime Text, select the portion you want to copy and choose Edit->Highlight->Copy to Clipboard as RTF.  In MarsEdit you simply paste the results while in RTF mode.  Now, presto… formatted code samples!
 

server.get('/imageSize/:name',function(req,res){

   im.identify(files[req.params.name].path,function(err,features){

       console.log("image/" + req.params.name);

       if(err) throw err;

       else

        res.json({ "width":features.width, "height":features.height });

   });

});

 

server.get('/getPhotos', function(req,res){

    res.json(files);

 

});

 

Mission complete, I am now fully functional blogging on Windows and Mac. :)

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