Becoming obsolete…

A few months ago I recieved an email from Marmalade detailing their intention to withdraw from the SDK market. Marmalade is the system I used to develop The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge in order to facilitate the cross platform nature of it. Using Marmalade gave me the ability to target iOS, OSX, Android, Windows, Windows Phone, Kindle, and Blackberry.

A month or so later, Marmalade confirmed that the SDK had been sold to another company, and that further support may become available from them.

That process has now taken place. I still have a month of my Marmalade licence left, and they have not turned off the Licence server to I can still build and continue to work. However no future support will come from them. The new company are offering a 12 month bridging licence at $100 more than my previous licence fees, but this also comes with no support. I’m also not convinced that they intend to be around for the long term. The main reason they appeared to by the Marmalade system was for internal development.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Google. Doomdark’s Revenge was now in breach of one of their policies and needed to be resubmitted or removed from the store. A quick recompile and the problem was solved.

Lats week I received an email from Apple. The Lords of Midnight was due to be removed from the store in 30 days. This is due to them culling old apps that were not being updated and/or were not 64 bit. In theory, a recompile would solved the problem, and as I had slowly added some new functionality, this should gain me a stayt of execution for possibly another 5 years.

The problem is, I can no longer build the App for iOS. I just cannot get the system to consitently build the app in 64bit mode.

So, unless I can resolve this issue within the next couple of weeks, it will mean that The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge will be dropping out of the stores – as no doubt, Google will soon require 64bit support. And as much as I would like to, it makes no sense for me to use time to port the games to another system in order to get them released. I also couldn’t do it in the timeframe that would stop the app leaving the store.

For me, worse than this is the affect it has on ill fated education game Timbles. This is something that I have slowly been working in for longer than I can remember. My own ineptness has stopped be getting the final push to get the game released. I’ve found myself tinkering with it to help with things like the UI and game flow, but have never fully let it go… well, without 64 bit support, it won’t see the light of day.

Again, it just makes no sense for me to spend time porting it to another system…

And with that, I feel that I am once more, stepping away from game development. I’m not sure my heart is in it. I’m not sure my heart has been in it for a long time now, and I just don’t have it within myself to do what is required to bring these three titles back from the bring.

Obsolete…

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Timbles – Week 3

timbles_elephantAnother week passes by in what is becoming a worryingly increasing pace.

The work on Timbles last week yielded few, if any, outward signs of change. Definitely nothing that would warrant another youtube video. However, a lot of pieces dropped into place. There is some tweaking to do, but the Frantic mode is pretty much in place.

One of the difficult things to remember with Timbles, is that it’s about the numbers, the times tables. It’s about getting someone to play the game long enough and not think about the fact that they are playing a game of times tables. It’s essentially, learning your tables by rote. And to that end it is important that the player, just keeps playing.

It makes thinking about the design of the game a little difficult at times because normal rules of game design don’t always apply. I have added many fun things with the star bursts, and power ups and like. But in the end, they are only there to distract the player from the times table bit of the game, and lengthen the game time, and in turn increase the players exposure to the numbers.

 

bonus_7 bonus_3 bonus_5
I am within touching distance of a playable version. So, this week my focus is going to be on some frontend work, putting things like the main menu in place. By the end of the week I want to be running on an actual iPad with the ability to play the game and return to the menu, and then play another game.

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Timbles – Week 2

Last week I spent a good amount of time coding! I has my main framework in place last week so just need to start adding new things in. I found myself reading through the code of the original prototype and then coding these individual snippets up in the new system.

The original windows vb.net code
Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 10.15.57

New C/C++ code
Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 10.17.53

However, after wondering if there was anything online for converting vb.net to c++, I found something that would allow me to convert 100 lines of code at a time. So I quickly rattled through most of the code, and by Tuesday had all the original prototype code in place in the new system. I spent Tuesday, housekeeping, fixing up the stuff that wasn’t right.

By the end of it I had areas of code marked up as TODO: these were areas that I couldn’t incorporate fully yet, but I knew I would need to work through.
Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 10.24.26

Timbles Design DocumentWhile working porting the old code, I realised that there was a whole area of the original prototype that I couldn’t remember how it worked, why certain actions were triggered, what certain variables were doing. So I started a design document to record this information as I worked it out again. This would give me something to work with as I turned the prototype into a real game.

It’s funny, that as the new prototype is now playable I find myself thinking about the actual game more. Which really is what it is all about. The original prototype was just that, a prototype. I now have a new prototype running under a new system, but it is still a prototype. It’s the base to build upon. The original prototype had a few game styles, but I decided to implement Frantic mode first. Frantic involves numbers appearing on the screen slowly, you must keep the screen clear. The more questions you get right, the shorter the delay between questions becomes. The game continues like this for a time and then stops adding new numbers allowing you to finish off clearing the screen, and then the next table is added and the process starts again.

While playing the Frantic mode, I found it too difficult! Yep, that’s me playing a game I wrote, that was only using the 2 times table. Is there any hope? 🙂 The issue is actually the size of the playing area. If the question comes up at the bottom of the screen and the answer is at the top of the screen, you can spend more time looking for the answer than you have, especially as the screen becomes fuller. Thinking about it, I found myself thinking about two solutions that would make it easier and more importantly more fun. Either the playing board is smaller and the imagery bigger, which is not a bad thing in itself, or the the questions and answers need to appear closer together. Of the two I happen to like to first solution, mainly because bigger graphics are always going to be preferable, especially on mobile devices. So if the game suggests that the board should be smaller and the graphics should be bigger, who am I to argue?

Thursday I added in sound code. My framework had no method for playing sound as I never used it in The Lords of Midnight. So I had to work my way through the Marmalade SDK to add sound support. Now I can start the process of implementing all the sound effects – a whole group of TODO’s ready to come off the list.

Friday was a right off, pretty much the same as the week before. Not sure what it is about Friday’s but I need to keep my eye on it. No working currently getting done on Fridays!

Video of me playing the new prototype!

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Timbles – Week 1

Can’t believe that a full week has passed by so quickly. It’s been really refreshing to be working at home full time again, even if my setup is less than optimum.

A few weeks ago, I pushed the button on a new study. We moved into this house almost 12 months ago, and the study, being much bigger than the old one, just wasn’t working. We have moved both mine and Victoria’s computer in to the room, and have two desks in there. But the setup and furniture just weren’t conducive to a good working practice. Strange that I was much more comfortable in my old, smaller, study. So we decided to have it kitted out properly, but this won’t happen for another two weeks. We had already moved the desks out into the living room, so that the study could be decorated. And in doing so, I killed my desk. Which means my iMac is sat on the top of a cupboard. I only realised midweek that the cupboard is empty, so I can open the doors, to give me some legroom!

On Monday I spent the morning getting rid of some company admin that was lying around. It’s amazing the difference clearing down all you email and stuff makes.

The afternoon was used creating mock up graphics and design for the screens that are needed for the game. Just to give me some focus and to make me think about the game minimally.

timbles_screen_flow

As the day went on and I finished some of the concept images, I added them to my flow chart.

timbles_screen_flow

I also finally named all the characters. Although some of the characters are going to need to change. I realised while trying to assign the characters to particular numbers, that the list is not very gender balanced. Hopefully the artist can make some adjustments before release.
Meet The Timblesarnold
Continue reading “Timbles – Week 1”

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Dollar Babies – for games

I have been thinking about this for a while, so thought I should probably put it out there for the record. And the Games Britannia games design competition reminded me of it.

Anyway, Stephen King runs this thing called Dollar Babies. The idea being that a student film maker can option one of his short stories for $1. There’s is obviously much more to it than that, and a full explanation can be found on Wiki.

The thing I was thinking about was, what if games publishers trawled through their back catalogues and IP and made a select few of them available to a central body. Students and Indie developers could then buy an exclusive option, for a time limited window, to develop a title based on that IP.

There would be rules in place to protect everyone of course. For example, maybe the game can’t be a straight remake of the original, or it can’t be used for an FPS, or it must have a particular age rating…

The option period may mean that the developer must supply a demo or design by the end of the window that the publisher can then sign off. At this break point the agreement can be terminated, and the IP returned to the pool, or the developer is granted rights to continue with the product. The final game cannot be released without sign off, and any commercial ventures must tip up a royalty to the publisher or the central body.

I know there are lots of details that would need to be ironed out. It’s never quite as simple as it appears in one’s head. But as a concept I think it could be a great way for students and Indie developers to have a chance to mine a wealth of old Intellectual Property that is currently doing nothing at all. Imagine then, if other creatives put some of their IP in. For example, an author could add one of their old novels or short stories to the pool. Or even a film studio could add a film or film character.

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