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14. April 2013

I just finished performing an upgrade on the software that runs this site. I ran into a couple small snags during the upgrade that resulted in the site being unavailable for about 15 minutes. If you we're trying to access the site earlier today and received errors... My bad, sorry.

 

 

The new software should be a little quicker, but it was mostly about server security and a few perks for me, like better blogging software support. I think the upgrade went smoothly enough, but there are a lot of moving pieces. If you encounter any errors, please let me know what and where so I can fix it!

 

 

Cheers and thanks for your patience.

 

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12. April 2013
During GDC Havok announced Project Anarchy a collection of their gaming technologies including Physics, Animation and the Vision engine for mobile. Today a few more details where announced and its all great news!

What’s included?

We have a powerful toolset made up of Havok’s Vision Engine, Physics, AI and Animation Studio; components of which have been used to build games like Modern Combat 4, Halo 4, Skyrim, Orcs Must Die and Guild Wars 2 to name a few. Project Anarchy bundles these technologies together, allowing users to download a complete toolkit with exporters for max and maya and a full WYSIWYG editor.

The Havok Vision Engine is built on top of an extensible C++ plugin framework and Project Anarchy will include the source for the plugins we use to connect our other products to the Vision engine. This source will also be maintained online and will provide insight for users on how to extend functionality with their own offerings; mail middleware@projectanarchy.com if you’d like to know more.

How free is “free?”

You can download and develop your game on the PC for free. Releasing that game for iOS or Android is completely free. We’ve tried to keep it simple. No crippleware, no restriction on how big you are, no hidden royalty payments on the back end. You can opt to purchase direct support from our engineers or additional source code.

What about other platforms?

Additional platforms are not free. If you want to expand and generate revenue from other platforms you can license those directly from us. Given the ability with Project Anarchy to quickly move to new platforms, the risk/reward here will be easily understood based on the game’s initial success. We’re hoping that with these options and the opportunities afforded by a large community sharing a common technology base, as well as the fact that more and more developers will grow up with our technology, we’ll all benefit from what Project Anarchy brings.

They also have a launch trailer showcasing Project Anarchy on mobile.


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11. April 2013

I mentioned yesterday that i've become rather smitten with Codea but didn't exactly find the prospect of typing on the iPad screen appealing.  I could have hooked up a Bluetooth keyboard, but I don't want to carry one around with me, especially as the one I own is massive.  I didn't really feel like spending 50-100$ on a portable one, I generally can't stand them if I'm honest.  In the end I came up with the following solution and I actually rather like it.  There is a price tag attached with this setup though, about 16$  ( or 1416$ if you count the MacBook and iPad Mini…).  Which ironically enough is more than Codea costs!  I was going to buy the one app anyways for other reasons, so that was a non-factor for me.

 

Here is my Codea dev environment in action!

 

Codeonmac

 

Instead of using a Bluetooth Keyboard, I am using my MacBook as one using the application Type2Phone, a simple little application that acts like a virtual bluetooth keyboard.

Type2Phone

Connect and pair like a normal bluetooth device, then when the app has focused, anything types is sent to your iPad and the iPad's keyboard is hidden.  Type2Phone has a 4.99$ price tag, but it works very well and has plenty of options.  Even more important, it handles connects and disconnects very well.  There is a more expensive app called iKeyboard, the one you will find if you google.  It doesn't appear to be maintained, doesn't work with iOS6 and costs twice as much.  Use Type2Phone instead, even if it has a horrible name! :)  It's one of those slick little utilities that sets out to do one thing and does it well, I appreciate those.  If you are running on a PC, I am certain you will be able to find similar utilities, as long as you have bluetooth that is.

 

Now typing and looking at a different device is kinda awkward, so I decided to mirror my iPad's display to screen.  The easiest way to do this is with Reflector a 13$ purchase that runs on either Mac OS or Windows an enables you to mirror your iPad display on your desktop using Airplay.  So long as your network connection, the results are pretty solid.  In the above picture, I am out at a coffee shop with both devices tethered through my Android phone and it was a bit choppy at times when running a game or movie, but flawless when programming in Codea.  On my home network, it's simply flawless.

Here is Codea running mirrored on my desktop using Reflector.

Codea over airplay

 

Now, Reflector is a cool little application and one I was intended to purchase anyways ( it's one of the easiest ways to screen capture an iOS game at full speed without having to run the simulator.

 

Now you may be asking, why not just run the simulator?  At the end of the day, you can't beat running on the actual device, especially when it comes to motion controls and multitouch.  Plus, under this setup, all of my code exists in one place, on the device, no need to move from Mac to Dropbox to iPad for example, or the other various deployment mechanisms.  Plus at any time I can just pick up the device and go, the big strength of Codea.  This way, I can give myself a desktop like development experience when I am at home or have my laptop with me, but I can still take advantage of the iPad based nature of Codea when I am on the go.

 

There is one downside to this setup, and one I don't think I am going to be able to overcome…  you still need to touch the device… there is no mouse support in iOS ( unlike Android ) and Reflector is for display only.  You will find yourself clicking things in Reflector over and over until you get used to it.  If you know a way to control the touch screen on an iPad from a Mac, let me know!

 

You can see a video of the entire thing in process right here:

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10. April 2013

Now that I am actually setting off to create a mobile game, it dawned on me I don't have any current iOS devices to develop and test on.  I have an iPad 1, that my daughter has pretty much co-opted, and an iPhone 3g, which is absolutely prehistoric at this point.  I have zero desire to own an iPhone ( wayyyyyyyyy too small for me ) so I decided to pick up this iPad mini last weekend.  I figured it was a good base-line target device, as it shares the same basic components as the iPad 2.  Besides, I was going to be buying one for ShadowRun eventually anyways!

 

Codea

Of course, with a shiny new toy, I pretty much spent the weekend playing with it.  So i've been installing the various games and applications that aren't available in Android land.  

 

One such application I eventually installed was Codea.

 

If you've never heard of it, Codea is a Lua based game development system that is run on the iPad.  That's right, it's a full IDE, code editor and game library that you run on your iPad to make games for your iPad.  As you may know I am a pretty big fan of Lua game engines and amazingly enough, Codea is pretty good.  After I installed it, the next couple hours just disappeared.

 

Codea comes with a pretty extensive number of demos and a great deal of art assets for you to get started with.  You also have the ability to publish to the app store.  The documentation is pretty good, although locating it from their website isn't immediately obvious.  You can take a look at the reference here, although it uses Sencha touch, so it will only run on webkit browsers ( Safari & Chrome ).  Again there are a number of demo applications with complete source code included as well.  Pretty much everything you need is actually included.  Perhaps coolest of all, there is even a book available, although only a chapter is dedicated to Codea.

 

So, what you may ask, is it like to program on an iPad?  Pretty freaking terrible actually.  I've never been a huge fan of the iOS keyboard, now imagine writing code with it.  Codea do have a toolbar that make accessing special character and navigating between text ( think Home and End ) easier, and it does help.  They've also made a number of things very touch friendly, like colour selection bringing up a colour select dialog or touch and drag to change a numeric value.  There are also drag and drop snippets that make the process quicker.  At the end of the day though, you still have to type a fair bit and with the onscreen keyboard it's kinda frustrating.  Codea does about everything it can to help you, but in the end, they are at the mercy of the device they run on.  You really want a bluetooth keyboard if you are going to do serious work, if only just to reclaim screen space.

 

I am actually rather hooked.  I can't see myself using Codea for a full release project, but as something to play or prototype with when out and about away from my PC it's great fun.  I think it would also be a good app for someone just learning the basics of programming.  This app is easily worth the 10$ cost.  As I am going to be playing with it a bit more, I might as well do a review… expect one shortly.

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8. April 2013

Near the end of last week I announced the GameFromScratch game project and announced I was most likely going to use HTML5 as the development language of choice, while LibGDX and HaXe + NME were my runner up technologies.

 

The end result of the process is going to (hopefully!) be a published game on iOS and Android, but I intend to share as much as reasonably possible on GameFromScratch.com, including a running version of the game and most of, it not all of, the source code and eventually assets.  Obviously then, I want to do it in a technology that appeals to the majority of you, while still fighting my requirements ( I list them in the other post ).

 

Since I made that post, I've received some comments, tweets and a number of emails showing interest in various technologies.  So I've decided to put it to a poll, GFS's first ever!

 

 

I am not promising the winner in this poll is the technology I am going to go with, but it will certainly be given a large weighting when making my decision.

 

Copied from the earlier post, here are my specific requirements:

  • Turn based game
  • May require modest 3D support, otherwise sprite based
  • Excellent UI support ( UI heavy game )
  • Available on Android, iOS and on GameFromScratch.com at a minimum
  • In a language of interest or known to a large number of developers
  • Tools at low or no cost, so maximum number of readers can follow along
  • Reasonably quick development time
  • Good library support, little desire to re-invent the wheel

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Microsoft Imagine Launch Unity Based Coding Kits for Kids
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8. December 2015

 

Microsoft Imagine just released a trio of coding kits aimed at teaching game programming concepts to kids using Visual Studio and Unity.  The kits include teaching slides as well as complete project files.  The three new kits are:

Check out December’s exciting coding kits:

Binary Break-In

Crack the binary code, teach a safe the binary number system. Create the code for the safe to recognize binary numbers, apply it with bitshifts and then get the gold!

Use C# in Visual Studio with the Unity editor to complete Binary Break-In, a game where a safecracker needs in-depth binary number knowledge to open the safe. Use bitshifts in the code to convert numbers, and then learn to use Unity’s animation state diagram for triggering specific animations on events.

Block Knock

Play with projectiles and physics to clear the table!

Use C# in Visual Studio with the Unity editor to complete Block Knock, a game with the goal of clearing the table of all the blocks while avoiding the cylinders. Code camera controls, projectiles and use collision detection to learn more about physics.

Diamond Miner:

Sow gems and bombs in the soil to create chain reactions and find diamonds. 

Use C# in Visual Studio with the Unity editor to complete Diamond Miner, a game where players must use a limited number of clicks to discover diamonds while avoiding buried bombs. Program mouse click interactivity, create chained explosions, and learn how to randomize the levels for games!

You’ll need Unity and Visual Studio Community 2015, both of which you can get for free. Download these new kits or check out our full selection of coding kits on Microsoft Imagine. We add new kits every month, so come back often.

 

You can read more about the release here.  It’s interesting to see Microsoft move away from Project Spark and toward Unity instead.

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