Timbles – Week 4

icon_android_1024The fourth week rolls by…
I was actually pretty concerned this week, it’s been a bad week for development. I lost both Tuesday and Wednesday to company admin. In particular, I had to process my accounts. The end of June was the end of my VAT qtr, and that needs to be submitted by the end of July. I also needed to calculate the royalties that I need to pay for The Lords of Midnight. What had become apparent was that I didn’t really have a good fix on how much of my company money, in the company bank account, still belonged to the company. Now that’s not normally an issue for me, I’m only usually 3 months away from processing my accounts, and I don’t spend money based on the balance of my business account, but having given up my major income stream, I really needed to resolve the issue. The last thing I want to do is to think I have more money available to me than I do. So, as hateful as processing my accounts was, it was a necessary evil. However, the positives still don’t make me feel any better about the two days of development I lost. It was also my wedding anniversary on Tuesday, and Victoria’s birthday on Thursday. I took Victoria out for lunch on Thursday, so that was another half day given up.

IMG_1457With that background to put the week in context, I have actually ended it positively. At the end of last week I set myself the goal of having the game running on an actual iPad. For a while I was thinking that I was going to miss my own milestone. But, it all came good in the end.
I development on the missing bits of code that I needed to have the game running properly on a device. The game now goes into a menu, you select to play. You can return to an in-game menu to exit out, or just resume back to the game. And the game returns to the menu when it has finished.
I went through the process required by Apple to create all my certificates and profiles needed to get this new project on a device. I built all the assets needed to cover all the different iOS devices, and created icons and launch screens.

A couple of test deployments while I shook out some issues with placement of assets and inclusion of correct files during the build process, and Timbles is running on my iPad. There are issues with it running on the iPhone but that is just about the screen size. A day or so next week should resolve that. And the rest of the week will be about polishing a few things, and in principal I should have a fully operational game mode by the end of next week.

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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.

 

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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
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The Timbles are coming…

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A few weeks ago I made a decision to allow my current contract with IBM to come to and end. They had offered me another six month extension but I decided not take it.

Toward the end of July, I am taking the family to Florida for three weeks, and I had already decided that I would take the whole of August off. It’s been a long time since I had a long vacation. I originally wanted to only work the winter months when I started contracting. :)

The issue was that there was only seven weeks between the end of my contract and going on holiday. IBM had agreed to factor in August as part of my contract, but ideally I only wanted to work up to the holiday. I could have taken a new contract to cover the next seven weeks, but short contracts have a habit of turning into longer contracts, and I really didn’t want to commit to anything new.

So, I made the decision to finish my contract and not look for a new one. This means being out of contract, and therefore not earning money, for the next 3 months!

I ended up thinking about a project that I started in 2008, Timbles. It was a prototype game that I wrote, to help my children with their Times Tables. Unfortunately many things got in the way of me developing it, not to mention the plan for it started getting more and more grandiose, and therefore harder and harder to complete.

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