Thursday, December 29, 2011

Once is all ya get!

Once, just once. That is all one gets for something to be New.

So take for example trying to introduce my new game to my family (usually home brewers first audience). They are all excited to try the game, and i am very interested in watching them play to see how difficult the game is for a newbie. I also watch a lot more signs like frustration and assumptions etc. Generally (possibly always) i learn so much about my game and things to modify or clarify etc. It is a good time as the family is very complimentary and seem to really enjoy the experience.

However, this whole experience is fleeting. Fleeting becasue it can only happen once per family member. New is only NEW once. Which is a bit sad really. The second time or even after that i find that the experience of trying the game out again on these people is not as informative. They play like they have played before (sic) and generally are not quite as excited. So seconds is nowhere near as tastey as first time. I tend to learn so much less, except that the first levels are really easy now, as i am usually told, therefore not very interesting now.

I now have developed a plan, a method of getting the most out of my family for these first trials. I would recommend it to anyone in a similar position, and it is good in it's simplicity.


Try the game on one family member at a time. So i get feedback from someone like my son. All te while keeping the other interested members of my family well away from the trial. Then after some modifications based upon my first trial, i will probably approach my daughter. After some more mods i will se the wifey. She is the ultimate test for basic playability and responsivemness and feedback etc. the more i try to have accomplished in this one trial really shows.

So i get 3 initial trials and not one, like i used to when i used to show my game for the first time to the whole family.

Have fun,
Da Voodoochief

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

5 levels in and so much more

Development continues at a good pace here in my spare bedroom at home during this Holiday break. I am not quite sure what i am hoping to have completed by the time i go back to work in the new year, but i think it will be something fairly substantial.

Obviously i keep making levels, this is sort of to prove to myself that the concept and control scheme are worth pursuing. In fact i really believe they are, and i am astounded by some very recent play tests by friends and kids. They all sem to be able to play the game very quickly, which is a definite plus. After all games like Angry birds and fruit ninja do not really take skill initially to get people hooked on the echanism. Though my game has more of an initial learning curve (something i am afriad of), it seems to be much smaller than anticipated (Phew!).

So now i made a new level (this morning), i just couldn't help myself. I need to stop. Though putting ina  levels with lots of floating and moving platforms was a blast. I also got my collectibles in the game and then made it so the game remembered which ones you had collected on each level etc. Just like collecting stars in Mario. Collecting the stars will open up new levels, so if ya got stuck on one here and there, ya can just bypass it by doing well enough on other levels to colelct the gems.

Then this afternoon and a bit this evening i realised i needed to get my feedback in for someone pressing on the screen etc. This is a good thing to do an should make the learning curve even faster for new peeps. Now i have to admit something at this time....

 I think i have ben putting in ALL these most excellent features becasue i really don't wanna program the editor. I know you are probably laughing by now cvos i have created 5 levels by hand, but, well. Making the editor is a bit boring in comparison to writing deadly enemies or springy platforms. Maybe tomorrow eh ;)

Though at the moment i have started writing the Instructions class. More on that when I have done more i think.

Unity is tough to get into when i have a game to write. So not made much progress there, though my evaluation is about complete. Though the prognosis is not good for my purposes :(

The books, ahh, i really need to get more done on those, so that will be a focus tomorrow for me i reckon.

Now off to bed, i am tired.

Da Voodoochief

Sunday, December 25, 2011

4 levels done

Ok, so these are effectively example levels. But they do in fact show some of the gameplay off in a good way. There is a lot more i can add by expanding the gameplay experience with some new elements. That can come later, but now it is time to test those levels on unsuspecting friends.

That is what i thought earlier today, before i went off to a nice Xmas get together at a friends house. A place where my friend Mark cooks a very large English Xmas dinner and then some. There as always was so much food :O  My stomach will be moaning about this for most of the night now haha. Oh, back to the point. I took along my latest version of 'Eternal Recoil' and also took the apk file so i could put it onto his Galaxy tablet. Always good to check if these things just work or not.

Well first things first as we tried it on the Galaxy Tab, and yes it did. In fact it looked and felt exactly like the Kindle Fire version. This was a nice feeling i have to say. Then it was onto watching various people playing the levels, and me trying to keep as quiet as possible to see how they attacked each level. The only information i gave them was the Instructions the game and levels will have when finished.

I am very pleased to say that watching them play was very rewarding. They got through the first introductory levels fast and then completed the 2 more difficult levels fairly quickly. They all seemed to enjoy the experience and yes, one has to take friends opinions of ones games with a large pinch of salt, as they are usually way more positive cos they know you a friend created the game.

The best part was after i got back from a quick visit to the loo, the kids were all fighting over who could have the next turn to play the game. This was such a nice warm feeling inside :)

Next up i will add some collectibles and a few other touches to more complete these test levels. Then i think i might try and find some other programmers, to see if i can get some help to make the game bigger and more rounded all over.

Now i am off to try an soak up all that food i ate :O

G'night all,

Da Voodoochief

Saturday, December 24, 2011

More Game Dev and Unity too?

I have been very busy these last few days.

I now have a 3 level game, though one might argue that they are not quite right for the first three levels of my game. In fact i would assume they would be spread a bit apart, though the first level is designed to be the first level for sure. this has been going well as along with the three levels i now have a results screen and a proper ready screen and level selection screen. This also keeps tabs on how many times you succeeded or failed the level and the best time etc. So far so good.

I think i will add in an instruction class next and pop instructions into the first couple of levels etc. then i can truly test how well it can be played, without me giving the instructions etc. so far my Daughter can play it easily, and with a surprisingly large amount of skill for so little play time. My son has yet to play and will be my next test victim. The wifey played it but i am not sure she will have the patience for this kind of game unfortunately.

Still along with all this i have been looking into Unti3D, and i have to say that is a lot to take in, and i do not have long to look into it. time will tell if i get to really play with it or not.

I still have not sorted out my advertisement stuff in either the Android or iPhone devices, which is a pity and something that makes me a bit depressed tbh. I have been working more on the Childrens books pages and get closer every week to be ready for release. I now have two leads for illustrators that I hope i can work with for the second and third books. Time will tell, but i am very excited and hopeful.

That's all from me tonight,

Happy Holidays

Da Voodoochief

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ads make me all AdWhirl

Ok, so my game is Ad supported. I got iAd into my iPhone version, but since we updated to the new XCode and New Marmalade versions, we cannot get the darned thing to build. Still an ongoing issue which will be resolved soon i hope.

So all this Ad stuff is a nuisance. It really is, there are so many ad suppliers, and as a businessman (yeah, soemtimes i like to dabble in this), i would like the best return I can etc.

Anyway, just signing up for ALL these different agencies and groups is a pain in the ass imho. Now i have accounts for everything it seems everywhere. But i can never ever seem to find very clear instructions as to what to do to install SDKs and then what to do when i have. If they include an example i tend to rip that apaprt to make it work. However it all seems a little, cobbled together.

I hate wasting time on getting ads into my games when i could be spending those hours making my game better in so many ways. So what to do? Well i am using Marmaalde and so need to use what they call Extensions to get my ads to display. iAd now works I am told in version 5.2, though i have yet to witness this myself. While i was looking into adMob i found AdWhirl. What the Heck is that i thought. Well it appears that once setup it will supply you with Ads from several different ad suppliers. Wicked i thought, sounds great. It also happens some nice chap (i'll have to find his name...) has created an extension for this thing. Woot, that sounds right up my alley. Well as it happens he has also created an example and then he added instructions. OMG..... i was shocked.

Well after following the install instructions i was happy to see the whole thing compile. So far so good. Next up was to run it on my Kindle Fire, and here is where i presently reside. I get an assert saying it could not load some adWhirlib or something. I am not sure what to do about this of course. I guess i need to go read more forums.

Still, Ad support seems to be a pain, i wonder if anyone had it all go in easy?

Good luck out there and Happy Holidays

Da Voodoochief

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What Game will do well ?

I am a bit frustrated i have to say.

I really want to have my Indie games be financially successful. The need and desire for this has several aspects to it. It is not just an avaricious thing like it could be. Though i know everyone wants to make oodles of money (of course).

1. I have a family to support so spending all my time developing Indies detracts from my family time. If the earning of money for the time i spent doing it, it would pay me back time elsewhere.

2. Making money is a side effect of making a game that is popular. I write games so people can appreciate my art, my skill, my creativity. I get a big thrill knowing that people are playing my game. Sometimes in the past I have received fan mail from games players and i can tell you first hand, that it is a wonderful feeling. I really want to see as many people as possible playing my games.

3. This games industry has become quite turbulent and seems to me to be getting more and more turbulent as time goes on. This means I fear for the permanency of my job now more than ever. Ever since THQ arbitrarily laid off everyone at Mass Media a couple of years ago i have had this slightly paranoid feeling of being on the edge of losing my job (yes i also work professionally in the games industry.

4. Independence.. I really want this. I want it because Interviewing for a job in ya late 40's sucks. Who wants to do that, i know i don't. Also having Independence will allow me to code most anywhere. I have been very fortunate in my 16 years over here in the USA to meet really nice people. A lot of these people i call good friends. Heck, my children and theirs have been growing up together.. or were, until they had to move to another state because of the job market here in southern Cali. I want to visit all these people spread across the USA, and i would love to do it over a whole kids school summer break. How fantastic would it be for me to go around the USA for 6-8 weeks towing my trailer and yet working at the same time. Freakin wonderful!!

Back to the main main title. My frustrated quandary.. And i am very sure i am not the only one in this situation.

I started work a few days ago on a bouncing game idea, and i love the way it feels already. But there is a lot of work involved in making this game because of the quality level i want and because of the number of levels etc. I tend to work on the level design and level feel as much as i do programming a whole game, I love balance in games.
Anyway i also have a strong idea for an RTS game, it has a design that seems to give it a unique but very accessible edge, so i wanna do that too. Only.. I can only write one game at a time. So how the Heck do i decide which game to write? Which is possibly gonna be more popular? Which is most likely to be more visible?

I have no answers so i am frustrated.....

Good luck to all you other devs trying to make this decision, I hope ya make the right call.

Da Voodoochief

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Marmalade #6 - iAd issue, Kindle Fire

It has been a fairly busy couple of days. I really thought that the iOs version of the game would be good to go by now. Unfortunately there have been a bunch of unforseen issues. So i will discuss them, and then go on to describe my Kindle Fire and dev for that device.

iPhone version is not ready yet...
1. On wednesday i worked with me mate Paul for quite some time, maybe 2 hours in total. Doing a few things, but majorly trying to solve the iAd crash issue. Every time an iAd was served it crashed the game, or it did 9 times out of 10. After some debugging i traced it to a problem with the IwGxSwapBuffers() call. And this did not match the example that did work. So once i was armed with this i decided to attack the forums, information in hand. Well now i new know to search for i discovered a bunch of threads on this subject. One o fthe main ones mentioned there had recently been a fix (this fix had taken a startling 6 or 7 months to obtain, OUCH!!!!) with the latest update to version 5.2. Sweet!

2. So Paul tried to update the Mac to 5.2 and had issues, which he eventually traced to the fact he needed an update for XCode as well. Simple enough... only... he is still struggling to get the thing downloading to his iPhone and working correctly since all these re-installs. What a palarvor and what a mess. I hope to resolve this really fast and get our game into submission asap.

Meanwhile back at my ranch (ok, my house in the suburbs).
1. I had tried to get the download to my Android tablet (Kindle Fire) working on Tuesday only to be foiled by who knows what. Shortly after that my KF was nabbed by the wife to play 'Where's my water', and i have hardly seen the machine since. Anyway my mate in Utah grabbed my code from my subversion repository and grabbed a version of Marmalade and then built and ran it on his Android phone. that weas very exciting of course, and he showed me it working via skype.

2. Friday turned up and i stole my Kindle Fire back. I had done a bit of research and it seemed that the JDK that i used was broken (it was the latest version 7). The advice was to go back to version 6 update whatever. so firstly i asked my mate to send my his built APK file to try  and see if i could put that on my Kindle. I used dropbox and once it showed up the install went flawlessly and Whamo, i had the game on my device. WOOHOO!

3. Next up was to build my own, so a quick uninstall of jsk7 and then find the jdk6u29 version and install. so far so good. It did not work, i was bummed. It was having issues locating the jarsigner and so i new it was my install that was somehow missing. It then dawned on me that i had provided an environment variable for JAVA_HOME and so went and changed that to the new JDK directory.

4. It worked.. It had ben building but not deploying. Now i can deploy and install or even run it directly. This has allowed me to play the game on a real touch screen device and not just in a simulator. I am very excited and the only thing stopping me getting the Android version published is I need an advertising extension.

As you can see, i faced a number of trials and still do most likely. But i am hopeful that the approval system for the iPhone app will go through fast and without a rejection once we get the thing working again.

I am sure there will be more coming soon :)
Da Voodoochief

ps. one last note!  I added a nice icon to the build and now on my Kindle fire desktop i can see the HotChicks Icon, it is cool and very exciting!

Friday, December 16, 2011

My new Game has been done Already?

During the last few days a couple of people have shown me 2 games Doodle jump and Funny Bounce. It seems that both these games are indeed the same (on first perusal), but I was shown them because i described my new game to these people.

Interestingly the games they showed me are similar in foundation to my own. Though the gameplay will be a bit different since i made the decision to go puzzler and not just travel down (up?) a level in more arcade style. To be honest they are more similar than i would want them to be, and i am sure my game could be mistaken for them. Only.. I know what kind of quality and all the parts and elements i will be putting into my game. Both these two are very simple to lok at and have simple elements to play with/against. Mine will have a lot more going on.

Let's take the background as my first example. Both these two games just progress up the screen in the screens width. Whereas my game has a wrap around mechanic for endless side scrolling. As i used in a previous game 20 or so years ago (Car-Vup). Ok, so ya don't play the background, but ya do play the foreground elements, such as platforms and bouncers and turbines etc. These also obey the wrap mechanic and make prgogressing up a level an interesting experience I hope.

One question that came up from several people was (and i paraphrase here) "Have you cheked out the other games on the phonetype?". Well the simple answer is no. If i wanted to check out all the games on Android and iPhone i would have no time left for actually writing games. So instead i come up with a mechanic for playing my game that i think is interesting and go from there. Hoping that i will be new and creative and people will like me, really like me. As it is with my new game. Those two games mentioned above even use one of the extra game modes i was gonna do, tilting the screen slightly left and right to scroll my screen. In their games of course they move the character, and i have to say that the technique works rather well. But just trying to go up a screen and not falling has limited appeal to myself. I find i get bored a bit quick doing that, seeing how high i can get.

So at the moment I feel i am bringing a lot of new fun and enjoyment and elements to this (gonna call it a genre now!) area of phone gaming. I do have a choice where i could make a completely new game, and that does appeal as well. I have about a dozen designs and i am sure by the end of writing this i will have a few more i would like to try.

I make the games i do because i thought of them. I might have some unconsious leanings from things seen and experienced before. But then is all we create born from our experiences? So i will strive to make the best games i can.

Da Voodoochief

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Game dev - Eternal Recoil update

I am loving the development of a new game. Using C++ again for making games seems to make it quite enjoyable. Also using the tech and SDK aspects i am now familiar with means i am writing a game and not fighting with Tech so much.

So the old working title was 'Eternal Recoil featuring Bouncing Bob'.
The rename is 'Eternal Recoil featuring Bob the Frog'.

This has come about due to my crappy artwork and my kids comments. After seeing the platforms that the player bounces on, they commented they looked an awful lot like lily pads. then they said i should change my yellow ball (Bob) into a cute frog. So they found me one online to use till i get real artwork. I do think the game is much better with a googly eyed frog though, haha

Check out this mid game screenshot...
 What ya seeing in that screenshot is Bob the Frog falling down to the ground below. The lily pads (sic) are moving around the screen in the horizontal direction, and you can tell their speed by the  green smoke effect they drop and leave behind. The hearts we should all ignore as an old item for me to know the code is working. The clouds and buildings etc are the main background and are there to show motion and give a sense of being somewhere. The background color changes based on how far through (up) the level you travel. Eventually going black and stars appearing in the sky, and finally the moon.

So far Bob bounces quite nicely and can bounce off the platforms, enabling him to get higher and higher. This game is about cute, and i am hoping to make it cute enough that people will at least try it, just to see how sickly sweet it really is. It is loking more like i will make this version a puzzle game, and not a full arcade game type experience, though that may come soon after, as that is usually my fave to do. Though i also like puzzlers :)  The aim wil be to help bob get to the Moon, a place he has dreamed about jumping too all his short life.

More info as it arrives.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Marmalade #5 - Ads and iAds

This is part 5 of me talking about using the Marmalade SDK for the first time to convert a game i have out on the Windows Phone 7.

Ok so the conversion went well. Trying the game on several versions of hardware showed up right away that i was not using frame compensating (obviously i knew this). I came up with a plan and it was easy to solve this issue. Sounds were not sounding good, with so many clicks in them. Still another easy to clean up item. The game is playable though and still seems like fun. So what do we have left ?

Well after playing the game on the iPhone it becomes apparent i really have a very short list of things to do. Below is the list and status and thoughts on them.

1. When tombstoned or removed as the active focused app, the game still runs like it has full focus. I tried to find the information i needed in the SDK documentation, but failed for a while. Then a friend came and lent me a hand, or eyes :O. It is in fact named as Paused.... Bah!  So there are a couple of callbacks to know when you lose and regain app focus. Sweet. That will be easy to do tomorrow.

2. Fix clicking SFX, my mate Paul has this sorted i am told. Will check it tomorrow. No idea why they went clicky in the first place though.

3. The game is setup to work in landscape mode. However on the iPhone there is an oddity where landscape can mean either way across. The screen flips and such, but it is odd. On the Android for example it stays in a single landscape mode (oops, that is a premature mention!). Not sure if i ned to address this or not at this time.

4. Crashing.... The game crashes after about 4-5 levels on the iPhone, but does not in the simulator. I suspect it is running out of memory due to a leak, but i am not sure as yet. More investigation is needed by simply turning off certain aspects of the game game code till it remains solid and doesn't crash. just because i do not have a debugger does not mean i cannot find it :)

5. Adding in the Ads, this is after all going to be our revenue stream. The iAd extension is remarkably easy to use. Only it seems a little unstable. So far the game can crash as soon as it is served Ads, or maybe later (could be our 5th level crash?). Now i know from the forums that other people have had to deal with this. So i ave a couple of things to try. First off will be to try the example and see if that ever crashes. If not, then i will mimick that. Still, the iAd crashing stuff has ben a bit of a pain. Mostly becasue i do not have a lot of access yet to an iPhone or iOS device.

6. Get all the publishing information taken care of before submission. This is things such as Icons or description files etc. My mate Paul has published about 8 apps/games so far, so i hope that will go smoothly.

Yes, i will still need to purchase a version of Marmalade before i publish. It's a funny thing, but i really want to pay after i make money and not before. Is that bad?

One Note:-
I did attempt to join Marmalades App program, where they sell your game and promote it for 20% of the revenue after the portal or publisher fees are taken. I am excited by this deal and hope they do great promotion. However Hot Chicks the card game did not meet their quality level to get approval. Maybe my new game will :)
If anyone has done the App program and has any information that they can reveal, i would be VERY interested in hearing if they thought it was worthwhile to them to do it.

Da Voodoochief

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Game is tasteful?

History and Reasoning:-
Quite some time ago i decided to create a game called 'Cards en Fuego'. However it did not get many downloads, but as it is Ad supported i could track the amount of playtime the game was getting. It appears that it got a lot of people coming back to play again and again. However both myself and my partner felt like one of the problems with the initial download numbrs was that the name was not in English.

So we reskinned the game and relaunched it as a new game called 'Cards on Fire'. This we felt would be a great move and it did not take too long to reskin the whole game. Once it launched we took down the original version and then waited with high hopes of doubling our measly 1.3K downlaods of the orignal. The downloads for this version were actually lower than the downloads for the original, barely making it over the 1K mark in the first week. Very disappointing and also we think proving that the name did not appear to matter. However, once again the retention the game was showing was very good. A lot of playtime for so few people. We had also gone to only approximately 5 downloads a day.

We really felt at this point that awaremness or visibility was a major problem. As of course i have noted before on the Xbox for my games. Great sell thru, but hardly any downloads.

So whats next.. My partner and I banged our heads togetehr and decided to try something we had not wanted to go near. A more Risky version of the game.This time using pictures of semi naked women. These pictures also had to be something that our wives would not balk at :)

The Game gets Girls:-
Now of course there are moralistic standpoints to take about having pictures of scantily clad women in ya game, and it did bother us that we were going to try this out. We decided we should be 'Tasteful' and in reality it was going to be just another reskin. This time the cards in the game would become pictures of females and also we could enhance the product by giving it a more personal feel, by adding pictures of women on the pause screens and game over showing their feelings at the current situation. This did indeed enhance the product and in fact i would say the whole game experience was improved when the card matching no longer required you to simply look at numbers to match. Now you had to look at details such as the color of their bikini or the color of their hair etc. A more interesting game for sure. One more note i might add at this time is that obtaining these pictures of the ladies was costly, and that is a cost we hoped to recover with a lot of downloads.

I made the decision that i would not put this game on the Sorcerygames web site, a decision i now find to be silly. The game is very tame, but is still the same good game we wrote initially.

So the important question is how has it done on the Windows phone 7 platform. As we did in fact release it about 6 weeks ago. Well it's initial downloads are around 3K, so that is 3 times better than before. But not the 10x or more we were hoping for. The idea of using this titilation factor we hoped would allow us to get noticed on the WP7 marketplace. I would not say that it was a great success. It is though a success in the fact that the daily downloads are around 50 or so, getting the 10x we had hoped for. All in all the experiment has not really proven much one way or the other (apart from continued downloads).

So now we are hopeful that the iOS and Android platforms being about 100 times the size of WP7 could bring in that 100x more revenue from Ads. That will at least allow us to pay for the development costs and maybe buy us some lunch.

An interesting experiment, but inconclusive.

Da Voodoochief

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Marmalade #4 - Pc to Mac to iPhone!

I that title sounds ridiculous, or at least it does to my ears (eyes?).

However it is in fact a true explanation of what i did yesterday, or was it the day before. Well anyway, the facts are still the same.

Cross platform development is the single biggest reason i went looking for an SDK to do this job. As coding all the separate systems manually is a very large task. Obviously i have chosen the Marmalade SDK as it covers so many platforms and also I can write in C++.

Now my game, although not finished in the PC simulator (where i code the game primarily) was looking pretty good. So along with a friend of mine we decided it was time to see if we could get the game over to his iPhone (i don't own one yet). This blog post is about what happened.

1. My friend Paul set up his Mac with Marmalade and also after some trials and tribulations got it to put one of the hello world samples onto his iPhone.

2. Paul arrived with his Mac in hand and i copied my whole project directory onto a thumb drive and we copied it onto that Macbook. Then he decided we should compile it if it will and just see what happens. Well shockingly the whole thing compiled (apart from a typo from me). Then we got even braver and ran the compiled code. Once again we were Shocked to see the Mac simulator running the game on the Mac, mere minutes after copying it over. At this point we were very HAPPY with this SDK.

3. Next we were going to attempt what we really want to work. Can we get this onto an iPhone. Paul connected it up and a few minutes later we were once again shocked and exhilerated to see the game running onto theiPhone 4. We then followed that up by running it on the iPhone 3G. Ok, so i should point out here that the game at that time did not handle different screen resolutions and it does not properly handle the diferent processor speeds. BUT Oh My Goodness. Within 15 minutes or less, we had the game running on an iPhone.

THIS is what cross platform development should be like. though as you can tell we have had various milage before out of such cross platform sdk claims. This has to be one of the smoothest. In fact it was smoother than the Xna windows versions of my games to the Xbox versions. which is an amazing thing to say, as they were pretty straight forward.

Needless to say, this whole episode has inspired me to code more than i expected and i now handle different screen resolutions and also a bunch of other features have turned up in the game overnight, haha. I only have one issue remaining and that is....

4. In todays test the function to get the screen resolution returns a Zero on the iPhone, so the game defaults to a conservative 480x320 mode on the iPhone. Hopefully there is a cure for this as my re-scaling code is all in, it only neds to know the dimensions of the screen to work.

Both Paul and myself are very happy with the way this conversion is going. The only thing that concerns me at the moment is the thought of having to actually go Pay for the excellent Marmalde SDK, as we will need to buy two copies  :O  Pity i cannot get them on payback from ads or something haha.

Super Summary:
As per the title of this post. We did in fact go from PC to Mac to iPhone (and iPad), within minutes. YAY!

Da Voodoocheif

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Marmalade #3 - Getting over it

The Hump of course. I am finally getting over the initial learning curve associated with any SDK for any machine, or machines.

Now in this post i want to talk a small amount about actually working with Marmalade.

In the previous posts i mentioned setting up Marmalade on my PC, i also tlak about the issues i have had with REAL asimple tasks. BAH! Well now i know more and am learning all the time, i can say more about working with this system.

1. If you remember i had issues getting the simplest asset into the project. Well no longer. In fact i now use what they term as resource groups. These are great for organising your assets into various groups for say levels or maybe cut scenes etc. Though i currently load everything in one go, I have still organised the group, in fact i have oprganised a couple of groups, one within the other.

2. I got the GxFont working for my game. This is the font handling side of the SDK and i have to say quite feature rich. The main issue i had initialy was getting a Font to use. Well it was easy, i can say with certainty that it was very easy. All ya have to do is use the provided tool and whammo ya get the two files ya need per font. Then using them is also really straight forward and easy. I was very happy with the way it turned out. Then.. i realised that the strings being rendered were all below the layers of the sprites and this was an issue. I really needed them to be in rendered overdraw order. Well a quick post on the forum and a short time later i had my answer. It was as expected a simple answer. They use batching to render like or similar mode operations, like drawing sprites for example. This is a great thing, as i believe in batching tasks myself. So all i had to do was add a single line of code whenever i was going to draw some text, and hey presto it was all aok.

3. My only current problem using the Iw2D for rendering sprites is i cannot seem to scale the X and Y independantly. Which seems a little odd. I hope at some point soon to locate the way to do this, or i shall ask for the feature to be added. I see no logical reason for it not to exist. Still, only a small problem.

4. Sound looks like it will be a doddle to get into the game as i will use tutorial for this purpose, and glancing through that makes the task look really easy.

5. Next up will be the handling of the Ad api, and that will bring me into a whole new area of using the SDK with an extension api.

Next Blog post will be what happened when i wanted to test my game not in the simulator but on the iPhone for the first time.

Good luck,
Da Voodoochief

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Marmalade #2 How i struggled

New SDKs are always trouble. There are so many things ya don't really know about how it is structured. Whether things are capitalized or not etc.

So i had several issues. None of which were really to do with the instal process. Here are the first three issues and what i did about them.

1. The Simulator ran the Debug text Hello world version no problem. YAY! But when i tried to run the GX version the simulator would just crash in a nasty locking way. what the heck was going off? After an hour or so of trying a number of things i went to the forums for help. there is a lot of info in those Marmalade forums i have to say. I very quickly located a thread(or several :O) that mentioned this kind of graphical driver issue. One fix that was mentioned was to copy my DLLs down a directory from the Quallcom one. Well It worked, or mostly. I still have an assert when i run the samples, but at least they all work. YAY!

2. After playing with the samples for a bit i decided it was time to do some coding. So i got going and was going well till i needed a texture loaded so i could manipulate it on screen. Dang.. now this little problem took me a long time to fix i have to admit. In fact it took me approximately 4 hours to solve this one. The simplist tasks it turns out can stop most anyone. This time i was stopped as i could not decifer where to put my assets for my project. Now i would make a suggestion here that the MBK file comes with it's assorted option segments already defined but empty. Anyway i found the answer on the first place anyone should visit after installing Marmalade ( I was reading his how to training segments using marmalade and i saw how he added a texture. It is simplicity itself, adding an assets segment to your MBK file. Bah! so much wasted time.... Manipulating the texture has been very easy though :)

3. I never expected to say this but... I had some difficulty with my C++ coding. It's true. It has been quite some time since i last actually coded in C++ and boy does it show. It was taking me waaaayyy too much time to come up with a good conversion for certain classes or data initializations etc from C# to C++. Of course now i have spent a few days hacking away it is all coming back to me. Only issue is the code i have already converted and written may need to be redone. I really thought the conversion was gonna be a doddle. It has not been, but it is getting easier.

So far i have very high hopes for Marmalade. My conversion is coming along well and although there are several things not yet hooked up. I am expecting the game to be up and running by the end of this week.

Next Blog post I will discuss more about working with Marmalade itself.

thanks again to

Da Voodoochief

ps. yes, i also realise that getting to know any SDK takes time. With Marmalade i hope to cut my time in half from learning both Android and IOs.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sony Announces Jak & Daxter

I am very excited tonight, as finally Sony has made the whole thing public. We have tirelessly worked on this project for about a year now and it has been one of the most technicaly challenging titles we have ever done. And for me at Mass Media to say such a thing is gonna be very rare. As we have done some other very difficult and technical conversions over the years.

Here is a link to the Kotaku article Jak & Daxter

Here is the link to the 1Up.Com article  JAK & Daxter

The second link has the best article simply because it mentions Mass Media. Naughty dog did a fantastic job both technically and creatively to produce these games. We/I am very happy that we got the chance to convert them all to the Playstation 3. Now a whole slew of new people will be able to enjoy how good they are to play and look at. Naughty Dog really know and knew how to push hardware to it's limits and this made the conversion a real doozy. A challenge that Mass Medians all put their heart and soul into.

I am very proud of the job my team did on this set of games. I really hope the buying public also buy and enjoy these games as much as i think they deserve to be.

Da Voodoochief

Monday, November 14, 2011

Marmalade time #1

So here i am jobless. Not even looking for another one. I have a little work to do, to rebuild the games fro Sony submission till it finally goes through FQA. I have been working heavily on my B4IR website for the childrens book series, and i am happy with the way it is coming along. Meanwhile i need to create more stuff.

It is time for me to finally get to play with the Maramalade SDK. I read a lot about it and it looks very exciting, so here is what happened...

Install Visual Studio C++ before installing the Maramalde SDK

Joined the site (3 minutes)
Clicked the download box at the top of the screen and Filled out a purchase form (4 minutes)
I also CTRL-C the Order Id for later use
I grabbed the Trial 165MB version (5 minutes)
Recieve an email with the order Id in it
I ran the installer and accepted the agreement (of course!)
Moved the installer default directory OFF my C drive (hate stuff on root of C)
Hmm, select Max or Maya exporter.. well i have neither, pity
(4 minutes install)
Marmalade Config Utility appears and i put in my email addy + PW and chose license type (eval)
GOT an ERROR.. argh! Could not detect a Visual Studio version
  Checked the readme.txt file for what versions i could use, any C/C++ it seems
  Went to Microsoft site and downloaded the Express version (i only have C# and C# for wp7)
  172MB download for the Visual Studio Express C++, nice (4 minutes)
  So i played Wow for a bit while waiting for the slow installer to finish (10 minutes)
After a Reboot i reran the Marmalade Config Utility and it found Visual Studio and all was well
Then i opeend the Documentation for Marmalade and started reading for a while

Next installment in this blog
I Run the Samples... or Do they?

Well that was my first night, more laters
Da Voodoochief

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oooh the Possibilities

What shall i do next?

Where shall i go now?

Two simple questions, but a myriad of answers come from my brain. Althuogh i am now out of  ajob, i am extremely excited about what the future could hold for me. From either another professional position to all the stuff i can do myself for myself with Sorcery Games. I can also fix some long standing issues with my house :)

I have a number of Game ideas. Some small and some big. Some complex and some simple. I could do one of these, or maybe several of them. I have a large scale game idea (think size of XBLA etc), and i have a way of doing the demo in 2D to show off it's unique arcade gameplay. But the scalablility i have for this project (working title is Pogo Pete) is really exciting. I have so many things i could add into what could be a very functional prototype in 3D, through the addition of power ups. Or maybe minigames, or simply more elaborate gameplay elements.
 If i do a small game though i can make it more polished and maybe get a bit more tech into it, like micro transactions etc. I could also maybe get a couple of small games done in the time it would take me to create a larger one.
 so many ideas, where or how do i stop!!

My childrens book series that brings parents and children togetehr through reading and also gets children excited about reading books is back on the cards. I have been busy with my web site for the books (WWW.B4IR.COM). I have been working on the products->5 golden coins page mostly. It is now shaping up to what i want, though still not quite getting there. This kind of thing is not my area of expertise, but i will continue with it till i get it right enough. Then hopefully around the end of the year i can publish the books. At the moment i need an illustrator or two that will work for cheap enough for me to get a few more of my books illustrated(yes i have 6 written already!).
 One exciting idea is to also create the books as Apps. This will give me a couple of fronts to afttack the world and try to not be so invisible with my products in future. this options also gets me excited because i will be creating something that i believe will make the world a better place. Helping kids find interest in reading , meanwhile helping the parents connect with their kids through reading.

Get a Job already
After these last 10 months of very heavy work conditions (so many hours, so many days). I need a break. I need to recharge my batteries. So i expect i will take the rest of the year off. There are a LOT of exciting companies around LA that i would love to work with/for. For many differing reasons for each one. The only thing i don't like much is commuting, or i should say commuting during busy times. My job tends to make it so i have to be around when the other programmers are around. As most programmers tend towards getting into work at about 10am, that tends to put my hours later in the day to match them. This i really hate as it means i get hiome when my kids are headed to bed. Downer. Still i hope for this not to happen in my next job. Mauybe i will go back to being a programmer only, and not lead a team? Hard to say what could happen there, but again.. a very exciting set of possibilities.

I am an optimistic person and i really feel instead of 'Argh! what am i gonna do, how depressing is this!'.. I am more more 'Woah! the world is allowing me to make my own way.. so many choices, so many options.. I LOVE IT!'

Da Voodoochief

ps. i will continue to blog about whatever i start work on. which should be in the next week or so, (i am still finishing the project for my ex-work?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

End of line...

It seems my Time with Mass MEdia has finally come to an end. After a very productive and wonderful time (though there were some hard times of course). It finaly looks like the company has to clsoe it's doors.

16 years, or it would have been this september that i started with the company. It is also when i was brought into this wonderful country called the United States.

I have done many things in my professional carreer and i hope to continue that trend of being creative, but also a big problem solver. At some point soon i can tell everyone what i have spent so many hours of my life on this year. Though until it is officially announced that is still not possible.

I am not sure what i will do next for a Job. For now i need some recovery time for all the work i have done so far this year. I expect i will recover pretty soon and make some sort of decision. Will i go to work for a big company? Are theer any startups that need me and my talents? Could i actually make a business out of the phone and Xbox games? So many questions and so few answers.

Take care, and i hope your jobs are stable,

Da Voodoochief

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

End of Beta Anticipation

Today i am gonna talk breifly about the feelings i have at the end of a big development cycle adn the time of game submission.

We here at Mass Media are about to send to Sony our latest and greatest version of the game. If tonights version is solid, then they will submit it to critical path testing (can they play all the way through the game). Once it passes that, then we can go Gold if no other major issues have turned up.

So here we are about to submit what appears to be a solid version and i find i am filled with several very strong feelings.

Excitment -
I was gonna choose a stronger word, but nowadays that is only associated with taking drugs it seems. Still, maybe this is a bit like a drug. A drug i have been taking now for a year. It will be hard to come off of that is for sure. Still the excitment is really tangible, wondering if the game will get a good critical reception from reviewers oand players alike. Also there is the excitment to finally finish what has been the most challenging product of my career.

Sadness -
I get waves of this. Maybe it is regret, i am not totaly sure at this time. This stems from the fact that this part of my life is coming to an end. It is also a part of the worry in me that feels that the game might not get accepted well. This all mushes together in my head. Missing the intense development and the ridiculous hours is most definitely a double edged sword.

Let down -
It is a strange thing to say and i am sure some people will scoff at my assumption that i wil be on a bit of a let down after this game has gone. I will be going cold turkey once this game ships. I wil suddenly have another 35+ hours a week in which to do stuff. I will have this big gaping hole in my life that suddenly appears. I will have a very strong desire to do more.. as the gap will leave me without something i have been so incredibly connected to. I am not sure what it is like to come off of drugs, but the way it is portrayed in the movies seems to fit my bill. I know already i will be moody, bored, unable to focus on everything i want to. It will be glorious!! Also my family will have to make adjustments, they will have me around so much more, when they are not used to it. This will be a strange and good time.

I look forward to getting so much of my life back until the next big push, i just hope that the next push wil not be 10 months long.

Good luck in finishing your products, i sincerely hope your dedication to the task pays off, and you do not have to suffer your dedication for too long a period.

Da Voodoochief

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pesky Crashes

Why is it that at the last possible minute ya can garauntee that crashes will jump into your so neatly finished game? It happens so often, yet i never get used to it.

Is it because while in that finish the game mode it is all too easy to add some code that was rushed or not thought through enough, or maybe just wasn't tested enough by the programmer?

Still here we are with a few days to go and we have two doozies. Yup two of them. So after working on them all day we have the answer to one and a possible trace of the other. So tonights version of the game being sent to Sony is gonna have to be a little imperfect, but close.

Get a Repro, a reproduction of the bug that can be performed by anyone is best (not justa  trained and professional tester). Also one that can be duped in seconds, or maybe minutes. without repro's it is so freakin hard to find these issues.

Catch ya all on the flip side, i have a new build to test.

Da Voodoochief

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Design is so exciting

Here i am at work. Working on getting the latest creation at Mass Media finished and doing a lot of hours to complete this task. And yet as the end of this cycle comes to an end i am already salivating at the thought of creating my own new game. I do not believe that creating games will ever get old for me. 33 years now and still going strong.

So whats next? Another 2d game or something 3d? Man i could choose an rpg i have or several arcade style games. Or or or.. oh man... My mind is buzzing with ideas and thought processes about what would be best for which platform.

I still believe that my next thing will in reality be Cards on Fire converted using Marmalade to the iOS and Android platforms. It might not make any money, but will be a great way to see how Marmalade might work out, from start to finish.

Once i get that all going, i'll be blogging.

Just so excited.

Da Voodoochief

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cross platform SDK or Ease of Use SDK?

This is the thougth process i have been wearing out lately. Which is what i need more?

If for example i had the easiest to use SDK for prototyping or even completing a game, then i could get more games created faster. However...

If i had a cross platform SDK, then i would only have to write a game once (even though it might take me longer) adn have two versions of it for different platforms.

As i have been back and forth it got me to reading a lot of Blog posts and Summaries by a lot of knowledgable people. And i have come to some conclusions. Some you may agree with and some you may not.

1. Xna seems to be the easiest to pick and develop a game with. I know this can be subjective based on previous coding experience etc, but the libraries are really good and you can have a windows game going so fast.. Which then you can easily port to #wp7 or of course the Xbox. This is also one i am very familiar with and i do think it was easy to get going.

2. Some of the cross platform SDKs seem to make you have things like separate assets for each version, and not automagically adapting whatever your source artwork was and applying it to the new platform. This is a bit of a downer as for fast prototyping you do not want to be altering assets on two machines until the game is mostly done for all machines.

Final conclusion:-
 Surprisingly i came up with what i think is a revelation. If i had a cross platform SDK that was also really easy to pick up and use. That would be the best bet to move forward and make more games with. So i did some more research to find what people think is the best cross platform SDK for phones. Now the information is not very well researched and there is not a plentiful supply of peoples opinions in this area, but I did manage to glean what i hope to be accurate information. In the end i came up with an option i am Very VERY excited about.


This SDK looks to be what i need. It has quite a number of recommendations and i hope to get some time to try the trial version soon. I will start by seeing how easy it is going to be to port my Xna WP7 game 'Cards on Fire' to it. Heck, i will even blog about that process once i start it.

If you have any comments or knowledge or opinions on this exciting subject, please email me or comment below. Especially if you believe i am making a mistake with this SDK and i should try a different one.

Da Voodoochief

I do love the look of Untiy, However i have read several blog posts about getting stuff going in 2D and it seems a bit of a trial. Not bad, but still not what i would call ease of getting going. After it is setup and yiou have used it a couple of times, i am told it is simply amazing. What i really need is something i do not have to think about setup for if i can help it. So i can get straight to the coding (i am also a lot more used to C++ than C#, and i LOVE (yes love) pointers.

The single machine license sounds a bit iffy. I had that on one of my NCH Software programs called Wavepad. It wasn't fun when my pc crashed and i added a few new pieces of hardware when i also upgraded to Win7 from Xp. Bah! Not sure if this will effect my decision or not. the main thing is... Could i start programming the game immediately.

As i am still working more than full time on my day job, i still have some time to kep trying to research my best choice.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Beta Testing so close to the End

Whenever I enter Beta i get so excited. Even though i am usually pretty tired by all the hours and work thart has gone on through Alpha, Beta just gets me pumped right up again.

I know that in a months time this game will be done. Though it will be ahrd it will also be exciting. Ya see i love to mark things off of lists. I make lists of Lists just so i can check mark or cross out entries. As that list gets smaller i get more excited. So to have several hundred bugs and then start smacking them down is very fulfilling to me.

Also there is the anticipation of time off. Though in my current case time off will be after i get the Downloadable versions of the games done. So no rest for me for a while. Also of course i might fail first submission, which will mean more development time for those fixes too.

Either way i look at it though. Beta is exciting and a means/path to the end.

Da Voodoochief

Monday, October 3, 2011

Collision Detection Thoughts

My collision thoughts are about the way people implement collisions in shmup or platform games for such things as sprite to sprite detection. Though some of the thoughts could apply to ground just as easily.

I only have three main thoughts about the Indie games I have played these last few years.

#1. Man they overthought this collision detection. Some games come with perfect pixel collison systems. Even though they didn't need them. Do i really care as i carouse along a platform that the horn of the rhino kills me the moment a pixel of it crosses into my avatar? Well to be perfectly honest i DO care. In fact i care so much that it does this i am unlikely to keep playing the game. The reason is that i do not think that a pixel of the horn into a pixel of my hand as it swings forward in it's running animation should constitute me taking a hit. Especially as i was a little late in my reaction and i was busy tring to pull away from the charging rhino, but wsa pixel or so too slow. I realy hate this kind of collision. About 30 years ago when i was creating games this was more normal. Then i discovered more friendly detection made everyone a lot happier. Friendly being that the horn would have to penetrate a lot further into my avatars body for me to suffer any damage. In Shmups i used to call the effect scraping paint. The bullets were allowed to scrape the paint off my ship for a while befor ei would take damage. The big benefit to this approach is that the player feels like this soft collision is forgiving and allowing them to be a bit more sloppy. I have to say that i have whooped and hollered before when getting away with this.. So close to death, so alive mwuhahha!

#2 They did not really think about this collision system I reckon. Some collision systems seem to be broken. The Coder has the avatar running around the screen and when the bullet gets to ya you die. However in some games the distance the bullet is away from my avatar when i take a hit seems to vary. I hate this of course. I like games to be consistant, so i can learn the rules and play accordingly around and within them. Collisions that happens at odd times just make me feel like i am being cheated. And i have played several arcade games in the years past where i felt like this as well, it is not just the Indie dev. Thinking about what collision system you need generally goes along with what kind of game you are writng and the graphical shapes of what you are colliding with. Choosing generic geometry shapes i always think of is best, no need to complicate things most of the time. Unless of course you are writing one of the pixel collision games where the player swoops along the pixels you have drawn etc.

#3 I never noticed the collision in this game. OMGoodness they musta done a great job and got it right to the point where i do not think about it. YAY! Nice job you folks. Not much to say here.. and that i think is the point. If collision feels natural. Noone will remark on it.

I tend to use two shapes for collsion, Rectangles and Circles. I do not seem to need anything else and stacking circles is easy as well. If i have a shape that has bits sticking out of it, but not too far, i don't really want the player to suffer a hit if that nodule gets hit by something. so i tend to make the circle inside of the avatar etc. Then i have a multiplier on size that i can easily adjust to make the paint scraping easier or harder. This is also another way to have a more difficult game without having to add more enemies or bullets etc. Now a player would have to be a bit more skillful and accurate as he plays.

Heres hoping your detections stay true,
Da Voodoochief

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Backburner to the Fore

It seems it is time to make one of my backburner projects a more main focus.

I have seldom written about this project recently, but it has been in development now for approximately 6 years. It started when i was reading to me kids and then i witnessed otehr parents reading at their own children. I do not support the act of reading at children. I do not believe it builds up the sense of wonder and excitment that i think reading should instill in them. So i set about trying to alter this situation. From that i created my childrens books.

B4IR or Books for Interactive Reading

Yup, that is the web page/s that i have recently started on for my series of childrens books (major work in progress). With the aim of making it easier for parents to connect with their children while reading with them. It feels like a lofty goal of mine and yet i have witnessed a number of times parents reading my books with their children and both of them participating in a really excited way.

Can i make a business out of this and change the world at the same time? I do not know, but I need to try and push this simply because i think it will benefit certain families and help children to enjoy reading.

Lets see if i can actually make it a reality this time...

Unlike Xna games which really cost me nothing but a whole bunch of time. Bok publishing seems to cost a lot of money   AND   time.

Stay healthy
Da Voodoochief

Monday, September 26, 2011

Xna publishing on WP7, predisposed to fail

So two things. both of which i feel are very important. One of them i think MS will do as soon as they can get the back end sorted out. The other i have no belief they want to do. Can you figure out which is which as you read along?

1. In Game Transactions. These are now a staple of the both the IOS and Android phone systems. Though i know Apple is struggling with a bunch of issues on the iPhone. Still all the articles and blog posts i have read recently telling me this is a great way to make a project viable makes me want to create one or several Free games and charging people Freemium style for stuff. Alas MS do not have this in the current WP7 setup.

2. Achievements and other 'premium' Xna library content and accessibility. As far as i can tell Xbox Live Achievements and Leaderboards and possibly Avatars are all classed as premium content for the WP7 devices. I am not sure exaclty why this is, i feel it is a political decision to help out those Big companies such as EA etc to have special stuff of their own. cos them having lots of money to invest in a title and of course having licensed titels is not enough for them. Still this is MS decision and although i do not understand it, i can still hate it.

If MS decide not to open up their premium content  and with no in game microtransaction setup looking like it could happen in the next year. It seems to me the poor Xna developer is just setup to create games and apps to fill a void and not really helped to succeed. Yet Ms has made this wonderful environment for us to play in, but is that all they expect? Us to play in that place? One good thing is that although it may be predisposed to fail. It does not mean that everyone will, jit just means that it is harder than it could/should be to succeed.

Thats my latest complaint for the day,
Have a good one,

Da Voodoochief

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'd love to make

When i did my last post about not coming back to Xblig. It got me all nostalgic. I loved so much about the experience and the people. This inevitably got me to thinknig about what i would do. Berzerktron is an obvious choice for one of my unfinished games. However one of my favourite games (that i created) is in need of a sequel.

A Shooter did ok, it sold at approximately 30% conversion rate, which i love. However i have learn't since then a few mistakes i made when i created the title. In some ways they are subtle, but in some otehrs they are critical. So what if i was gonna do a sequel eh... What would i do?

1. The name was bad. Although i wanted to describe my game, i did not think about all the FPS games that are now called shooters. also naming it 'A Shooter' and not 'AShooter' was a mistake if anyone wanted to search for my game, it was lost ina  sea of search results. So this time i would want something else, something more poerwul and something that will describe the new game. In fact it would probably be named for it's increase in mass destruction as listed in the following items.
2. People found the intial levels a bit hard. Well people not used to shmups anyway. I now know this and so i would go the route of having too mmuch firepower at the start and then letting the gameplay come to them more slowly, instead of learning to play right from the go.
3. Options are always a good thing in games, or mostly are. I would want to add a nice screen to let the player place the firepower he has. so all that firepower at the start and then they have some ways to customize it too.
4. I would not change my A Shooter levels. This would give me a lot of time to get all the rest of the work done. Don't worry the game would feel and in fact would be a completely new shmup experience, and in some ways could show how different very similar seeming shmups could be. With this reduced amount of work creating the levels i wcould get the game out in a reasonable amount and of time.
5. I would want a score multiplier system in place so people could take more chances, but earn more points in a level. That would get peolpe really trying hard to beat their friends and their own high scores.

Isn't it a pity that i won't be making this exciting shmup of mass destruction becasue it isn't worth it if i don't have True MS supplied Leaderboards for people to outdo each other....

Da Voodoochief

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Xblig, i cannot come back

I am in one of those times in my life where i am at a crossraods. A crossroads of what i should do next. Now i am not talking getting married or anything quite so big, but i am talking about what I should do with my time.

At the moment my job could end in approximately 6 weeks. If it does what should I do? If it doesn't what should I do. whether or not i get a new job or carry on with my current job does not matter in some ways. As i will continue to develop Indie games. I cannot stop, my creative side demands that i let off some creative steam here and there. If i don't have a job i am sure i could survive quite well for some time before needing to find a new job. The thought of what games i could create full time makes my mouth salivate so much it makes me drool.

The thing is, and the reason for this post is that i have a love of Xblig, and Xbox360. I love the toolset (though i personally dislike managed languages, though i see their need). I really want to create another game for the Xbox. I have my Berserkatron game that i started and would love to finish. I also have many more designs that are designed and take up varying amounts of time to develop. My problem is that i will not be going back to Xblig. The reason why is simple. I grew up playing Arcade games, i was once in the British arcade games championships and i love that style of game. BUT.. and it is a big BUT... Arcade games NEED leaderboards. And until I am allowed access to them, i will not be able to bring myself to Xna on Xbox.

So i must be cast off because of some reason that Microsoft has to make the leaderboards hidden from us Xna Xblig developers. Now i have used the leaderboarsd in full priced software i have written on the Xbox360, i know how good and reliable they are. Alas i cannot get to them.

Oddly enough though Apple (yeah, Apple!) has Game Center and they give achievements as well as Leaderboards and more. Why is Microsoft so far behind on this one? Why are they a little off base... in my opinion?

I do believe though, unless i have established myself on another platform i would love to come back when the leaderboards appear.

I know a few people have alternatives for the Leaderboard issue on the Xbox and also the windows phone. I also rolled  my own version (with help from JWatte) and although it did work, it is just not a good solution. Viral score sharing is only good for immensely popular titles. So far i have not reached the critical awareness i need to make it work properly.

If anyone with any pull at Microsoft reads this post. please PLEASE PLEASE
Make leaderboards available to the common Xblig Xna developer.

Da Voodoochief

Monday, September 19, 2011

Being Ill, the responsibility

I am sure i am not the only one that works in an office that makes it hard to avoid other people. Now i do not usually avoid anyone as my job entails talking with everyone. Though i was ill on friday. I had a head cold and it was quite bad, however on friday i was not quite so bad. This mean't i was entertaining thought of coming into work. But i was not sure i should, because here we are in our Beta phase for our project and i really cannot afford to throw away any time from my team.

So i made the magnanimous decision to stay home and not have any chance of infecting more peolpe at work. I did manage to remote in and do several hours of work myself, but it was nothing compared to the destruction of work i could have wrought if i had infected several peolpe.  So i think my decision was a good one, and it did allow me to read/finish a book i had recently started (bonus!).

I wonder how many people go to work because of the pressure of completing stuff and actually do more harm than good?

Da Voodoochief

Monday, September 12, 2011

Will I have a Job ?

As my current project is coming to a close and we do not already have another job ready to start it is one of those times where i wonder.... 'Is this the end of my job?'.

I am sure other 3rd party development people have been through this nearly as many times as i have. Though it is something that never happened when i was working first party (ie: working from within a publisher). Nowadays though i am not sure if the same is true, as the last time i worked from within a company (THQ), we were unceromoniously let go before completing an in house project for them.

Anyway, i have about 2 months left to go and i wonder what i shall be doing 2 months from now. anyone who reads this blog knows i have several projects on the go and am hoping that maybe one at some time will be able to pay my mortgage, though at the moment that is not true. From my interactive childrens book series to phone apps and Xbox games, i have lots of expertise and desire.

So what will I do?
1. The company i work for could find more work.
2. I focus on my own projects and get the book series published
3. Work on more phone games
4. Work on more Xblig games
5. Find a different line of work to do
6. Find a job at another company

These all have their pros and cons. At this time i am hoping for continuity and the company finds more work (1). Meanwhile i will continue to pursue my other endeavours.

This is still a worrying time for any family member and i do have to say i am worried. I have 2 wonderful kids that are near high school age, and as all parents know that is not gonna be a cheap set of years coming up. So for now we need to make hay while the sun shines and see what comes along.

I sure hope i do not have to take a job working someplace else though as the commute time is gonna a bunch of hours to my day.. Then it will be very difficult to work on my own stuff.

Take it easy out there,
Da Voodoochief

Friday, September 9, 2011

WYSIWYG, but not in games

I have been reading with interest twitter comments and also a number of reviews of some recent games released into the Xblig service. I have also tried several (but not all) of these games on my Xbox.

A Group of Devs decided to upgrade the Xblig service and give it a much needed publicity and quality Boost. However the games chosen and are live now, have not quite had the impact that this group had hoped.

This group enabled devs to submit their game entries with a selection process, to enable the most qualified games to be a part of this promotion. Then there is a selection process to decide who gets into the final list of games. I LOVE the idea.

Or should i say... Loved the idea.

Me moaning...
Was all the decision and voting based on the look of the games? a short video stream demo of some of the gameplay. Certainly seems like it. In fact i love Xblig and Xna and my Xbox. I love the fact that some individuals are putting a lot of time and effort into trying to grow a brand or two, or just plain promote Xblig as a good place to go check out some cool games.

Well i had the chance to vote on the numerous title submissions, but i never did vote. I just couldn't. As I believe not in graphics or select video, but in gameplay itself(ahh i used the now outlawed gameplay word, smacks self (sic)). Ok, so i love the feel of a game, the way the platform jumping has a nice arc to it, or the way when you die you know why and know you can do better. The feel of a game is the most important thing to me, after that comes graphics and sound and stuff. So not being able to check out these games was something that made me abstain from voting. Now i must also add that i have nowhere near enough time to even play half of these games (which i find disappointing).

So then after the finalists are set, they MUST get their games done and into Xblig release by a certain time. OUCH, this is bad news, as some games take longer to develop than others, and anyone who has created games knows that they are always hard to finish, especially on a deadline. Usually i find that feel in a game is lost in favour of putting all the stuff we have designed and drawn into the game. (this btw, has happeend to me several times).

Ok, i have moaned enough about the fact i LOVE the idea of Devs getting together and doing a great promotion on several games that should knock ya socks off, and in the end they have come out and been mediocre to play. This i hope does not put all these wonderful people off trying again. Hopefully next time the vetting process can be refined a bit and we can actually get a set of Super Duper games to play. We all ned more good games.. right ?

IGSU i loved your concept.. I hope to Love it again next time.
Till then, keep on trying, cos the only way to fail is to give up.

Da Voodoochief

ps. I was no help in this promotion whatsoever and I am sad that i was absent.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reaching Beta

Ahh the amount of work and frustration and hours that go into making games.

It is a huge undertaking to create a game. Even the small ones take a lot more time than anyone gives them credit for. Then you have bigger games and even more time spent by a lot more people. So when you get to a milestone like Beta it is a good thing. Hopefully the milestone was hit on schedule. Though to be honest the amount of hours per week per person tends towards the outragous on most any project reaching Beta. also the tension can be felt throughout an office when  a team is at this very important point in a products development.

Our latest build is a pretty good Beta and I  put in my build notes that the game is now ready to have video taken of it. This is something i am hoping for, as then the product will be announced and i can talk about it in more detail. Still i am very proud of my team and the hard work and dedication they have put into to make this Beta build work properly.

The exciting part now is that we have about a month in Beta and we have only the bugs to fix and a couple of otehr things we need to address, like frame rate in certain heavy areas of the game. Still we have plans for all those areas and i am not too worried. So now i feel pretty good about making submission and this is the most relaxed i have felt about this product since  January this year.

Da Voodoochief

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Morals and Money

Maybe I should have entitled this post as Morals OR Money...

There has been some recent Twitter activity about ratings and popularity of certain games. It is clear not everyone agrees with each other on the stand of Morals vs making games with an eye towards making money. Obviously anyone who makes games wants to make money, of that i think there is no doubt. However what we compromise when making our game can show in the final product and can also tell in the sales of the said product.

Let me go to a subject or Moral dilemma, this is mine and my friends set of dilemmas that we have recently discussed (again).
1. Should we add some tottie into the mix (put semi-naked girls into the game).
2. Should we use girl voices in suggestive ways in the game.
3. Should we plagiarize another game to piggyback off of its success.

Now I have a job currently, and my friend has recently lost his job. When he was working we decided to stay away from all 3 points listed above. However we did not really Need the money to survive at that point in time. Now a few months on we are talking about adding into any new games we do the number 1 and number 2 items. Something i can tell ya our wives are not very keen on. Now why is that ? Well it seems wrong to add this things arbitrarily to a game just to get more downloads and sales. Yet..... If ya giving the buying public what they want, well, isn't that a reasonable way to view a designers task?

So back to our discussion about moral implications. So far as you can tell my Friend wants to goa  more risky route with the games, as making money is now more important to him. Today while discussing this issue i told him that i would in fact be very interested in also loosening my morals if my job ended.

Now i am not talking about compromising the games to add in these female bits, but instead find good ways to put them in the game. Heck, the game is gonna be the same with or without them, but instead of being bold knights or barbarians in armour, they would be nightie clad girls swinging pillows or something. So it is obvious i can convince myself that this doesn't matter, my games integrity is still solid as it is the game i designed way back when i had a solid income. But somehow in the back of my mind i am not truly happy with the decision.

This brings me to my last point. Number 3 is something i cannot seem to get over. I cannot seem to feel poor enough or without my own ideas and designs and hopes for my own ideas that i could just copy someone Else's game. Now all games come down to several common seeds and then are remixed and rebalanced in the new mix to create a new game. This i know, but fully plagiarized games do not interest me at all.

Each person has their own personal and subjective view on their moral high ground. Some the sexist aspects are not as important as legal ones and in some cases nothing matters but making money.

Where do you fall?

I fall somewhere related to my desperation for money for my family and mortgage.

Da Voodoochief

ps. i apologise for jumping around in this Blog post. I just could not quite get my head organised, yet i felt like i had stuff to say.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

NDA frustrations

I make no secret that i like to talk. It might be one thing that i am truly good at. I also like to have some relevant information in what i am waffling on about. However due to annoying things like NDAs i cannot actually talk to anyone about my current job.

Here I am working at Mass Media for a ridiculous amount of hours per week and doing some really intersting stuff, and yet, i cannot talk about it. I cannot tweet our latest finding that i am sure some people would enjoy hearing. So here we all are at work for all this time and i am not able to tweet or blog about this cool stuff. Why not? Well simply because i am working on an as yet unannounced product. As it is unannounced i cannot say what it is, and therefore i cannot give hints about what it is by talking about the technical hurdles we are facing while making it a reality.

Another down side to working all these hours in my day job is that i am unable to develop my own games, so i have very little to discuss on that front as well.

So each week goes by and i search the Web to see if there is an official mention of this game. As once there is i hope to Blog and tweet stuff about it.

Till then, i guess all i can do is grind my teeth and say Grrrrr

Da Voodoochief

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cards Combo Pack is Live

Now we find out what happens when I put two unsuccesful card games into a single game and then try to sell it. Will it sell well, or even reasonably? Will it tank into obscurity like the free versions? Will it maybe provide a boost to awareness of the free to play ad supported versions?

We will know the answers to these important questions in a couple of weeks i hope. Cos now Cards Combo Pack is live and can be bought for the paltry sum of $1.29. Which i think is probably too princely for most phone users.

Still this has been an interesting experiment to setup and i am going to enjoy analysing the results when i finally get to them. However it is going to be hard to wait two weeks to see what happened. As it is the pubcenter Makes me sign in and check my ad impressions on a multi-daily basis, grrr!

If i find anything out that seems interesting, i will try to pass the relevant information on here in this blog.

Da Voodoochief

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Game Within a Game

This is the followup post to 'Tip The Scale'.

Remember i said a Game within a Game concept? Well below i will write up what i mean't by that and also some notes if you want to try this yourself. The main reason i did this is because i want to release a paid version of the games together.

So lets start by examining some of the things i said in the last post.

I actually built them inside each other
What this means is that i would load up a single solution with the multiple games within it. But they were not separated as separate projects within that solution. Instead the single project under the single solution would allow me to play either game. So my internal data had a selector of which game i wanted to play, and when i clicked start, away the correct one went.

It took me some reorganisation of the code
This was one of the more interesting jobs to do. I had to make sure that the game initialsation functionality worked without actually needing a game and also to make sure that the engine code(such as effect management system etc) was not tied into any game code. This job was much simpler than i expected due to having already done a pass like this to separate my Menu system from game systems earlier in the year.

Switching between games whenever i want.
The nice thing about running what is one App and selecting which game to play was twofold. Number one is that if i alter or enhance or fix bugs in the engine systems like the effects, i get that in both games without having to do anything special at all. Secondly it was really convenient to test each game in this mode, jumping from one to the other seamlessly etc.

It has technical issues thanks to the submission process etc.Well although it sounds great to put multiple games into a single executable App, i should explain some of the downsides. Firstly there is the issue of GUID, that annoying yet very nescessary unique identifier for each product. I accumulated several GUIDS by creating several new game app inside VS. I copied these into a nice simple text file and labelled them for later reference and copying. Along with the individual game GUIDs ya also need several other things modified to each game. Here is my list

For the creation of each game, i simply replaced all the stuff i needed to by following some instructions i laid out in my text file. I am not truly recommending this way of doing this task, but so far it is working out aok, but i hate the amount of steps it takes me to change game. And now Tip the Scale is in MS test and will pass. Then i will convert my solution to make the combo game so people can pay for it. Phew...

I sure hope all that made sense to someone, and maybe even use this information themselves.

Below my sig are my instructions, copied out for you to see.

Good luck,
Da Voodoochief

  1. Copy over the Assembly.cs and the WMAppManifest.Xaml files with appropriate replacements (Proprties directory).
  2. Boot up Dev studio jokersRun solution
  3. Bring up properties on the WP7_Jokersrun Project title in dev studio.
  4.  Change the name in the first Tab
  5.  Change Which Thumbnail the game is using
  6.  second tab... Rename the two boxes
  7.  second Tab also...  Click the 'Assembly info' and set the neutral resource language to English
  8. Rebuild the whole thing

Will my game sell on WP7?

Tonight i will be sending in my game to Microsoft for them to certify it for publication to WP7 paid game land.

Cards Combo Pack is a game that contains both my free to play (Ad supported) games in one easy to use and Ad free game/download (Cards on Fire & Cards Tip the Scale). The only real difference that a player will see is the lack of Ads and the title page has both game logos on it to select which to play.

Now the real Question is.. Will people buy it?  I do not actualy hold out much hope for people buying the game. But ya never know and any extra revenue is a good thing. What i am hoping for though is that the paid game might drive downloads for the free to play games. I am not sure if this is simply wishful thinking or if it is going to turn into something good. Still, this is the way i coded the games and so it is not too much work to try this out. I will try once i have a clue if it has made any difference to Blog about the findings. Is it really worth the effort? I simply do not know. But i do find it very exciting to try this kind of stuff out :)

Da Voodoochief

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tip the Scale Passed

It is a nice thing to recieve this message in an email.

Congratulations! Cards Tip the Scale has successfully passed certification for Windows Phone Marketplace.               

Here is the Zune link (LINKY)
Here is the Link to it's page on my Web site (LINKY)

That is how Microsoft choose to tell people their Apps and games have passed certification and testing. It is a nice sight to see in an inbox. So the game will be available sometime in the next 24 hours. I just hope it's published date adn time will give it some time near the top of the list of new releases, something i missed on the last two releases i did. Though i am not sure why. Maybe MS are batch passing games, which seems a little unfair on the ones that they batch pass first. Cos then you could appear about about 7th on the new releases list, even though you passed minutes before 6 others.

I shall have to keep an eye open for what happens.

Expect Combo pack coming soon.

Da Voodoochief

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Feel Hurt Today

I thought i would check out my game Cards on Fire on Zune and see if there had been any reviews added.

Indeed there are several new Reviews by people. But i could already see the game only has 2.5 stars to it's credit. so i expected this to not be great. However what i see when i read them hurts a bit. Even after having published more than 50 games in my career it is amazing how much some stuff like bad press on a game can hurt. So i'll just go right ahead and list them..

1 star - Tried and hated immediately but its free
I am not sure what about this game could induce Hate. I mean, it's a card game on a phone, not some racially charged political speech. So I wonder was was so hateful about this little unpretentious game.

1 star - Have installed or should i say tried to install 4 times ... will not open
I do not believe i have any control over this. It is working for a lot of other people it would seem. I have no crash reports, so whats up with this? Is it his phone or an MS problem. either way i do not think i can fix it. Downer.

4 stars - Lots of fun. Recommend the download
Yay something that makes me feel happier. All i want is something like try it and see. They don't have to tell me how creative i was with this original design for a card game or anything.

1 star - Aweful
Ok i am not sure again why this game can be so Awful. Maybe they mean't to give it 5 stars and say it was full of Awe (check spelling). Here is what the dictionary had to say about the word.
  1. extremely bad; unpleasant; ugly: awful paintings; an awful job.
  2. inspiring fear; dreadful; terrible: an awful noise.
  3. solemnly impressive; inspiring awe: the awful majesty of alpine peaks.
Ok, so i had a bit of a laugh on that last one (i like number 3!!). But i am saddened to see such vehemance against this game. I just do not think it is that bad. Heck go look at the video if ya want to see what it does. It does not have frame rate hiccups or particularly bad graphics.

Maybe the game just plain sucks... Then again, my Wife loves it.... So i guess it's ok, and writing this post also makes me feel better about the whole thing.

Still perplexed that people hate my game enough to even take the time to rate it.

Da Voodoochief