Monday, November 30, 2009

Trial mode is not always a Trial

Trial modes for the XBLIG are a required Item. MS says we must make sure that we do not give everything away when people are trying our game. That way they have a reason to purchase the application. This is great but there are no real rules on what the Trial version can do, and also can NOT do per se.

A Trial could be as simple as allowing only a certain number of your multi level game to be playable. Another idea is to Create a special level/s for people to Trial. This is what i did in Pellmell. Still the Trial has it's own limit of 8 minutes of playtime, although you can restart the application and get the 8 minutes again. There will not be saving of progression in Trial mode to make sure that people cannot just keep doing this to get to game finished etc. In Aceball i did something easier than creating special levels for the Trial. I simply allowed them to play as much as they wanted, and used the 8 minute trial timer to halt their progress. The simplist form of restriction.

However some of the games on XBLIG are not really suited to this timed format. Some of the games up there are so BIG that you do not even get through the instruction/training level before the 8 minutes are up. This is a bit of a travesty really. And shows the inate dumbness of the 8 minute trial. It was a great idea, but now seems a little out of date. I could easily have restricted my previous two game to ignore the trial timer, and in fact on Pellmell i did. Aceball would have been easy to restrict to say 15 levels or something (that takes about 12 minutes to play through :O) Also some games are too small to use the 8 minute trial efectively. Is it wrong that there are 1 dollar games that do not last more than 5 minutes at a play? I don't think this is wrong, as those 5 minutes could be the most awesome time ever! So those games need to restrict themselves in other ways. That is possible, as you do not have to last the 8 minutes in your Trial. You can end it any time.

So My new application is a Comic with a Trivia game built in. How to Trial mode that eh? Well the 8 minute Timer i cannot alter and if people kept re-launching the application they could read the whole of the comic (the main draw for this pplication). so what i have done is restrict the number of pages to about half (50), and also restricted the trivia game to only be the easy mode and ask only 10 questions. I also restricted the questions it could ask to the first 10. this is a hard restriction, but i certainly hope one that will not annoy a player, ballow them to be drawn in enough to enjoy the application and therefore make a purchase.

A good trial is King, but it is not yet a science. Therefore a lot fo trial and error go into trying to create what is a compelling trial mode and yet not show off everything you have. I am not sure i did the best job with Pellmell, as it's sell thru is only at about 10%.

Here's hoping this Dreamland Chronicles Trial mode works out for me and Scott.

So now Trial mode is finished i have two things left to do..
1. Alter a few annoying SFX,
2. Redo Upsell screen (promotion screen)

then it's into Peer testing it goes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stupid Comic and the laugh is on me!

Well here i am struggling i thought to get all the questions i needed created before i ran out of pages in the application. However i took an odd step of coming up with the questions from the real comic, and not the graphic novel compilation either.

This has caused me an issue it seems!!!

I have been stressing a bit as i have been running out of pages, but still needing to make more questions. So here i am this morning trying hard to come p with 10 more questions (a personal goal i set each time i create questions). Once again stressing as i see i only have a few pages left, but i need about 15 more questions, for my 100 minimum!!

Then as i finally turned to the last page i realised it did not look right. So i boot up the game and jump to the last page. They are not the same!!. Waaahht?

I then of course start looking back and lo and behold i find that the comic i have been reading is page 52....

Therefore i have another 48 pages of comic in which to draw my questions from. Needless to say, although i felt a bit annoyed and silly. I realise this is a great problem to have. so coming up with my 200 questions once again seems plausable.

So onward with the questions. Next time maybe i will do better having possibly learn't something from this, though at the moment i am not sure what.

So the Graphic novel is 6 books not 3 as i somehow got into my brain. DOH!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Questions questions

Who new it would take so long to generate questions.

Those people that produce trivia games get my new found respect for their art!

I find it a little boring to type them all in, but coming up with them is fairly interesting. Some of the questions i am coming up with actually get me excited. HAHA, how clever i am etc...

So 50 questions in, and not quite half way through the book. Woohoo! On target!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The website is down

ARGH! the sky has fallen, what am I to do.

Noone wil find my blog now.. ARGH!

Server maintenance and migration i am told by the Hosts. I know birds migrate, but not Web page data!! I mean, it has no wings :o

Ok, so they say it will be back midnight or so tonight. That is something i guess.

Cy'all when you can find this blog to read it :D

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Questions, questions.. And answers :o

So finishing up Dreamland Trivia Challenge means that I need a stock of Questions to ask. I want a good number ranging from easy and obvious to hard and more subtle.

It is not a job I have ever done before and man was i slow a couple of days ago. Still i find as i look for more questions from the book, i am finding them easier and easier, just showing that practice will make one better at something. Even if that something did not seem hard to start off with.

Still i have 100 pages and need at least 200 questions, so i need to maintain an average of at least 2 questions per page. yeeouch!

I found this so hard at first, but now i seem to be flowing the questions out.

Ok, so how many am i on now ?

25 :o So a bit of a ways to go. But perseverence will win thru for me!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Who shall get the work done? Me ?

Who will push till the product is complete ? Me ?

Who will push to get the best ? Me ?

Who will do the Coding, the Art, the Audio ? Me ?

Who will revel in the glory of a finished game ? Me ?

It seems the answer is me....

I feel alone today. Working on this current project all by myself. Trying hard when i get the chance to engage other people, such as my wife or friends. My friends that all want to do something in the industry do not appear to want to do it with me. As i have talked to so many of them about joining the fun, the cause. I still find myself alone. Doing all the jobs, and trying hard to do them well, and in a reasonable amount of time.

It must be me, as I have talked to so many capable friends, but nothing has really worked out. I am the common denominator, so it must be me.

Yes, My friend the artist for Pellmell and Aceball is awesome and will remain so. He is now busy and with a full time job.

The real question is a two parter...

Will i find a cohort ? Or will i run out of steam first ?

Monday, November 16, 2009

How do Bumble bees fly ?

I don't know the answer! At the moment i am not sure anyone does. I do know that people stufy this phenomenon and write articles about it. There are other mysteries and hard to understand things going on all around us. If only we see them, if only we take notice.

These strange things are very interesting to me from a coding standpoint, in fact probably from design too. The main reason is... If you put a bumble bee in your game, how does it fly ? what kind of algorythm are ya gonna use ? If ya do it a normal basic way, or in fact many normal ways, it will not quite feel or look right. We inately know when that kind of thing is wrong as well of course.

So i find myself taking notice and studying all sorts of things that probably make me a strange person. But a normal coder who wants to do his best.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Bring Life...

From my mind and my body. I bring life.

I breathe it into the elements I put together, yet I am not god.

I put together seamingly random BITS of data to represent something that is a lot more than the sum of it's parts.

I bring life...

I am no God, but then again, maybe i am to all the little BITS that float past my eyes and from my finger tips. For somewhere there, a form of life brought about by what I do.

I like to create, and when I am held from that, I am not the same person, with the same voice.

So let me create, see what i create. Don't just damn what I create out of hand, as that just doesn't seem right. Prejuduced is a word I would use for it. Although I know that not all I create is viewable. Some are travesties of ideas, and are more related to corruption than creative beauty.

I just went to the Movies and saw '9'

Saturday, November 14, 2009

DLC Progress is being made

Yup, it's true. I am not procrastinating at the moment I am getting on with the job of writing DLC as i knew i would.

One of the unexpected features i have just added is to put a nice darkened area under the buttonhelp text. I have a full drop shadow already. This did not seem to do enough to separate the buttonhelp text from the nice comic pictures behind it. Now however that is solved. I suppose i could now remove the drop shadows.. haha

Now i also have it so you can go into the Trivia challenge whenever ya want. But so far there is not way back.

Bonus is, Pause functionality appears to work fully and properly in Trivia mode (with no special coding from the Story mode).

Friday, November 13, 2009

I love it when...

I procrastinate for ages over something.
I have the drive, the strength of purpose and will to get done what needs to be done.

Now don't get me wrong, i wish to some extent that i did not procrastinate at all. Sometimes however that extra time allows ideas to perculate and form and take a real shape. One that i am able to bring into being with my coding.

This is now the time for one of these wonderful moments as i now have mostly completed the Trivia section of the Dreamland Chronicles Trivia Challenge. It is not fully hooked up into the game, but it is close. And at a fraction of the time i thought it was going to take. Though it isn't finished yet...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Some work is not worth the time or expense

Sometimes we come up with logical and cool ideas. These ideas of course make so much sense that we start coding them. Only to find later that the amount of time it would take to get the idea written or even tested is beyond the cost value of the feature.

It is at these times that you have to evaluate really hard what it is you want and is it worth the cost. Objectivity is a nice word, but for some reason is really hard to do, especially if the idea is yours.

I recommend if anyone comes to you and mentions that a feature is not worth its cost, that you listen. Then ask them to come badk in a short time, meanwhile you really evaluate it, as objectively as you can. This might hopefully save you some time and money. Now if only i could get this through myself...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Trivia challenge ahoy

So here i was going to thread the Trivia questions into the book every so many pages or so. This sounded great, but had me concerned that it would distract the reader from reading. Still, it seemed like a good macth when all i really wanted was a book on the Xbox.

I told Scott of the idea and he had the same concerns as me. He seemed to like the idea of the triva, but then Whammo, he came up with a modification that was sweet. We just let you read the book, and then ask questions later. The Questions are all about the book of course.

This makes the Trivia challenge not interfere with the reading of the book. Which is great. Now i am coming up with what i need for what is effectively a Triva program. It could be a trivia program even without the book. To make it effective it needs to be able to stand alone. Oh oh.. Now we are talking writing a new app effectively. Ok, so the bottom line is I am now doing twice what i hoped to at the start of DLC. Dang!

I estimate about 10-12 hours minimum for the Trivia part of the application. Then i have to seamlessly add it to the Trial mode as well, which won't be straight forward.

So i have my solutions, but i also seem to have a Lot more work to do. And this doesn't feel good for what was supposed to be a Quality quick application.

See how the world changes right before ya eyes ?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Scott Rocks

Scott at BlueDreamStudios got back to me today. We had an excellent and rewarding chat about the DLC game and what we can do. My idea of making it into a Trivia game went down well with Scott, and he even came up with a modification.

We are both concerned about distracting a reader from teh book by inserting trivia questions etc. so Scott suggested i put it at the end. This sounds great to me and that would mean i can make into even more of a game. YAY! With Timer and scoring etc. this is an awesome idea.

Trial mode however might be a bit odd. Simply because the 8 minute trial might cut out while the reviewer is still reading the first several pages of the book. DOH! So they may not even get to witness the trivia game at the end of the reading... We shall see if this is aok with Peer reviewers at some point soon i guess.

So for now, i have my direction. Scott also suggested that he can use his readership to come up with the trivia questions, Woot!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Waiting can be hard

I am waiting for Scott from BlueDreamStudios to get back to me on the Dreamland app i sent his way. He has a few suggestions already which i will try and incorporate what i can. Hopefully when we get to chat we will find a few more ideas to put in.

Now back to why i worry... That MS mandate about games being more than just a video player etc still count (in my mind) for something like this book as well. So i do not want to take that chance. So i reckon i will be adding in my backup plan. Which is to simply make it a Trivia game. This should be simple enough, adn hopefully will allow anyone to get more out of the book ultimately. I am not sure why i never coded it this way from the start, but haha. Looks like i will now, and enjoy doing it too. I just hope Scott likes the idea.

Now onto the Questions..... :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Playstation Home

This is an odd place, so much dead space.

We at Mass Media are trying hard to change all that. the current Scene we are working on (top secret) is going to open a lot of peoples eyes to what can be achieved in a Spcae for Home. This makes it quite exciting to work on, even if it is in one of the most restrictive environments ever created.

Now if only they would get rid of Lua (not gonna happen of course), and let us save to the Hard drive. haha

Anyway, this new space is exciting for it's levels of interaction (10 minigames at the moment!), and it's Spectatoring (is that a word ? sounds like potatos with glasses on, lol).

Ok, i am done now, not much more i can say at this point. But maybe soon i can say more? time will tell.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

For Scott and BDS

I made a special version of the application for Scott and uploaded it to his site BlueDreamStudios. This is so he can look at what i have done and give his approval, or that is what i hope for anyway. I had to put ina bunch of PC keyboard controls, but it is the only way he can se it till he obtains an Xbox joystick.

I cannot believe he went out and bought a PS3, he musta wanted that Blue Ray player bad!

anyway, if scott likes it, all i have is trial mode and then it's onto Peer review.

Aspect Ratios and forced perspective

Well now i changed all my page artwork to 1024x1024 pictures, they are as big a resolution as i can fit into this XNA product. But of course this leaves me with the aspect ratio problem, as my pages should be 1.5 times taller than wide. and obviously 1024x1024 is a square.

Simply by multiplying the render size of the width by 0.667f though i got the desired result and i was soo happy. It all fits in memory AND it is a power of two size so no issues with DXT or render performance, not like i had performance isues anyway, lol.

So i then run it on the Xbox and OMG i forgot that i am using the 1280x720 standard res, but i view my development on a normal 4:3 tv. Soo The nice Xbox scales the width for ya in a nice way. This sounds great and for my previous games it was AOK to have the pixels none square. This time however that is not the case. So what to do ?

I looked into the XNA graphics calls to see what i could find, the simple idea was to find out what aspect ratio the game was currently displaying in, and then use this float value to resize my pages. This went quite well and i find this nice Vieport part of the class with DisplayMode.AspectRatio. Wootilicious, it tells me either 1.333f or 1.777f. I now have my solution.

However i Did add the multiplier to the page width and it appears to work, but upon reflection i realised that Wide screen will now not work properly and my pages are gonna be Uber wide, DOH! Not sure atm what i will do, but probably not mess about with calculations, i will probably test to see if it is bigger than 1.444f and then just set it to 1.0f. Therefore maintaining the aspect ratio for wide screen or 4:3.

Now i need to go onto Trial mode and i should be done.