Timbles Silverlight

SphenI mentioned previously that I was working on a new project.: Timbles. I also mentioned that I was developing it under Vb.net. And I also mentioned that I was using DirectX3D using SlimDX… Well… things changed…

The game was coming along nicely, and I had taken it into school and installed it on a number of their machines, and on the whole it was working ok. Their were just a few things niggling me about the installation process. That is; it was a pain. I felt it was coming a big ask to get people who were not used to installing games, to install DirectX. And not to mention that some of the machines struggled installing .Net2.0 – once everything was installed it all worked a treat. The process was just a little off putting.

Over the last 6 months I have done very little on Timbles. I started writing the backoffice code that would become the Measurements Server for the game; the idea is that everything that happens on the game is recorded by the measurements server so that teachers can run reports to see how the kids are performing. However, I didn’t touch the game much.

Anyway, last week started doing some work with Microsoft Silverlight, ( for those of you not familiar with it – think Flash ), and I’ll touch more on the specifics in a later post. Anyway, I now have almost all of Timbles running in a browser. Which means it is supported on all the platforms supported by Silverlight.

Here are some screenshots. Please excuse the poor quality – I hadn’t realised that I’d saved them in rubbish quality mode!

Timbles Menu
Main Menu
A Busy Screen
A Busy Screen
Just Starting A Level
Just Starting A Level
A Quiet Screen
A Quiet Screen

Level Rollover
Level Rollover

I hope to get a version running on my site for testing purposes, over the next week or two.

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Timbles & .Net

I wrote the initial prototype of Timbles using vb.Net. Now I know many people will scorn at such a thing, but the reality is, I’ve been around the block with development languages – been doing it for long enough – and nowdays, I just want to go the easiest route.

Coding with .Net and VB is pretty straightforward, and you can do almost everthing you could want with them nowdays. I initial intention was to create the prototype using .net and windows forms and the move over to C++ directx when I need to code the game proper. The idea is that it is much easier to work with the prototype before investing time in the final production software.

When doing graphics with a Windows form there are 2 things you need to do. Firstly you must create a seperate user control to draw to, the second is that you need to turn doublebuffering on on that control.


Partial Class canvas
Inherits System.Windows.Forms.UserControl

This means that you can turn doublebuffered to true for this control. Place that control on your form and that is now your render target. Here is an example paint event for that control which we will use to render the game.

Private Sub Panel1_Paint(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.Windows.Forms.PaintEventArgs) Handles panel1.Paint

Dim n As New System.Diagnostics.Stopwatch

PlatformDevice.currentGraphicsDevice = e.Graphics

n.Start()

If Not IsNothing(currentPanel) Then
currentPanel.Render()
End If

n.Stop()

PlatformDevice.renderFrameDuration = n.ElapsedMilliseconds

End Sub

This code then tells the current panel to render. And all that needs to be done in there is to draw to the current graphics device.

Place a timer on your control that runs at your required frame rate, and inside the event for this invalidate your control.

Private Sub Timer1_Tick(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Timer1.Tick

Dim duration As TimeSpan = Now - lastUpdate

' how long did the update actually take
PlatformDevice.updateTime = duration.Milliseconds

Dim n As New System.Diagnostics.Stopwatch

n.Start()

If Not IsNothing(currentPanel) Then
currentPanel.update()
End If

lastUpdate = Now

n.Stop()

PlatformDevice.updateFrameDuration = n.ElapsedTicks

panel1.Invalidate()

End Sub

That’s it… you’d be surprised that you can get pretty good frame rates based on this method. More than enough for 2d games and in particulalry prototypes.

Next I’m going to mention XNA, Direct3d, and C#…

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Timbles

I started writing a new game recently and I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk around it rather than specifically about it. The concept came from realising that I had the ability to help Rebekah with her learning through the medium of Computer Games! Yep… I was lay in bed thinking about a particular problem Rebekah was having and thinking that I should be able to find a way to help her that would be more entertaining and thus should engage her more, when the penny dropped… I’m a software developer, and a games developer at that – so there is something I could do. I got out of bed and spent through till morning working on the prototype of the game.

It’s a simple puzzle game that I call Timbles – I don’t want to say much more than that at this stage.

After working on it for a few days and feeling happy with the general concept I let the kids play it. They love it and it seems to be doing the job. I took it into Rebekah’s school to show the lead learner and he likes it to. The school are going to work with me on it to help craft it into something that the kids could benefit from.

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Games

I realised for the first time over the weekend that… I’m missing the games industry!

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Jetpac

JetpacI was looking at the new version of Jetpac the other day; this is an update of the old Ultimate Spectrum game of the same name, running on XBOX360 Live Arcade – it looks fab, and almost worth buying a console for. Updating this game for the XBOX is, although a no brainer, an inspired move.


Jetpac Jetpac

Anyway, more to the point, I noticed while reading the RareWare site that Chris and Tim Stamper had left Rare. This was news that although not unexpected, heads of companies tend to leave 3 to 5 years after a buyout, however I hadn’t noticed it…

Ultimate and Rare were responsible for some of the best games ever made, and if it hadn’t been for setting up Smoking Gun, I would have joined them back in 97. They were and still are, the only games company that I would really like to work for. However, with the Stampers gone, I don’t think my feelings would be the same. That said, whatever the Stampers decide to persue in the future, the chance to work with them would be one of the few things to tempt me back into the games industry.

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