Deprecated…

I was feeling a little depressed last night, thought I’d wallow in the understanding that I was going to end up, moving on…

I’m working away, (again), at the moment. So I left my hotel and went for a walk, then into town to get something to eat. Found a nice homely Italian restaurant, and settled on some pasta, and beer, and wine, and desert, and Limoncello, and coffee…

I got back to the hotel and decided to Kickstart the ZX Spectrum Next. I figured that I might have a play around with it when it comes out. Started to think about finishing off the OpenSourceing of the codebase that I started previsouly. I then decided that I needed to give Timbles one last chance. I’d been unable to build LoM and DDR as 64 bit, but hadn’t tried Timbles. It failed! BUT, it failed differently. Hmmm… interesting.

Marmalade uses a project file called an MKB. The cross platform nature of it means that you create the actual project from the MKB file. So if I’m developing on Mac under XCode, I don’t hand the XCode project to someone developing on Windows, just the files and the MKB. From the MKB file they will be able to create a Visual Studio project.

This would be the only thing that would affect the build process of the different Apps. I took a look through the MKB file and found a couple of odd entries, entries that looked like they pertained to processor. These entries were in the iOS section. Now, I didn’t think there was anything in the project file for processor selection, that happens as part of the build process, AND I didn’t recognise the config options, I certainly hadn’t put them there. Now, I’ve had this before when an older version of Marmalade has added some options, or the options were necessary at some stage, but the system has evolved – yet the project has not been cleaned up.

I deleted the options and rebuilt… Success!

Quickly loaded the app onto my device… fail!

Not disheartended though, the failure was a memory issue. A quick check of my memory configs and I noticed that I don’t have enough memory allocated against the new devices ( as decided by screen resolution ). I’m testing on an iPhone7. Change, compile, deploy… fail!

It got further though… This time it is complaining that the TME databse is invalid. The MagicNo that I used to identify the database and to check endianness, is wrong. I figure that this is a 64 bit issue… I check my definitions of u32 ( being an unsigned 32 bit ) and the definition is unsigned long. Longs change to 64 bit, so I’m reading 8 bytes for the MagicNo and not 4 bytes, I should have used int. I check all the type definitions, check all the places that I’m using longs in the project. Change, compile, deploy… fail!

This time no error message, just crash straight out. So I add more logging and identify the image cache sorting routine. It’s using the c++ qsort function to sort a series of pointers to objects… in the code I noticed some funky casting going on, which happens to be using *(u32*) – that should be using longs. Change, compile, deploy… fail!

Hmmm… more tracing and I find another sort routine! So I change that and then search the code for any code that is doing a similar thing. Change, compile, deploy… success!

A quick play through and everything looks ok!

I upload to app store and the upload fails. It doesn’t like the binary. The reaon – it’s because the payload has the iTunesArtwork embedded in it, and Apple stopped doing that a while ago. Change, deploy, upload… success!

Download the app and everything is ok. So I push a version to external testing. This requires Apple to review and clear it. At 1:45 the app is cleared. I’m now ready to externally test. I really need to test against all the new devices that have been released by Apple over the last few years. Resolution will be the issue…

But… we’re on. This means that I can now push a new version of LoM and DDR out and buy myself a lot more time to transition to a new system.

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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 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.

 

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! Also please read the vacuum for pet hair reviews by following the link.

Video of me playing the new prototype!

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