Brief Update

January 8, 2011

I haven’t updated the blog in a while.  I updated Brand Name Space Game to version 0.2.471 on December 31.  That update was a pretty big one: it had checkpoints that let you start partway through a level after dying, which should reduce frustration a bit; it also had 3 new stages with some new gameplay.

If anyone is interested, the version number is created by combining a manually-set version like 0.2 with the Mercurial changeset number (on my build machine) of the source code/data that built that version.  You can see the version number and the build time/date in the About screen.

I’m currently working on adding a high score table to the game, which I think will add some value.  The scoring system isn’t tuned yet, so some of the reward part of the risk/reward equation isn’t set up too well, but I’ll work on that later.  For now, I’m rolling my own high score server.  It’s an interesting style of programming that I’m not accustomed to: PHP, MySQL, and HTTP requests on the client side of things aren’t really my area of expertise, but it’s nice to be learning something new.  It might take a while before I get it all working, though.  I hope to have a new update in the next couple weeks.

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Pre 2

December 22, 2010

I finally got my Pre 2 up and running as a development device.  When I installed Brand Name Space Game, the background rendering was wrong: it looked like there was no background at all.  I tried a few things and noticed that I wasn’t initializing some sampler state values when rendering the background.  I fixed that and have a new build that I’ll upload within the next few days, unless I find something else to tweak.

The game is up to 631 downloads and counting now.

First Day

December 17, 2010

I wasn’t sure if anyone would download the Brand Name Space Game Beta app after I submitted it to the Beta distribution channel.  It’s difficult to tell how many webOS users even know about the Beta channel because the Beta apps don’t show up in the official App Catalog.  Anyway, there were 150 downloads the first day, which suprised me as being a fairly large number.  Two users wrote reviews which had valuable feedback.

One user mentioned that the game seemed boring toward the end because there is no music.  This is a good observation: the addition of some good music during the boss fights would add quite a bit of attention.  I haven’t implemented gameplay music because I’m not sure how to handle streaming sounds with the SDL library yet: the title screen music is just loaded into memory and played, but that’s not really a good solution for gameplay music because it would take more memory than I’d like.  I’ll need to make it a priority to work out the details and get some music in the game.

Another user said that shooting wasn’t consistent.  I’m assuming the user meant that touching the screen to shoot didn’t cause your ship to shoot all the time, and I’m guessing that’s due to the somewhat small area of the screen where a touch will initiate shooting.  I just increased the size: now the entire bottom right quarter of the screen can be used to shoot.  I hope this addresses the issue.

I really appreciate the reviews and the feedback that these users supplied and I’m going to prioritize getting fixes for the issues into the next version.

Beta Submission

December 15, 2010

I submitted a version of Brand Name Space Game to the Palm Beta distribution channel.  The process was smooth and easy, mostly because the developer website has good documentation and lets the developer know exactly what to expect and what materials need to be prepared.  Since it’s in the Beta channel, the app doesn’t go through any review process by Palm and should be available shortly (within 24 hours).

I’d appreciate any feedback and bug reports from anyone who decides to try it out.  Keep in mind that this is the first release of the game and that there isn’t much content there, so don’t be too harsh.  For feedback, go to the About screen from the main title screen and use either the “Email Developer” button or the “Request Support” button.  Or go to http://inertia360.com and click the Contact link at the bottom of the page.

To install the app on a Palm® Pre™, use this link: http://developer.palm.com/appredirect/?packageid=com.inertia360.app.spacegamebeta

Progress

November 30, 2010

In the last couple weeks, I’ve fleshed out a couple levels and added a second boss.  At this point, I think there’s enough content to call it Alpha (all the functionality is implemented, but not all the levels are in place.

I’ve been working on writing scripts to automate the build/package process so I can automatically create a package file and back up all the source data to make it easy to go back to a given version.  I wrote a Python script to do it all.  This is the first time I’ve used Python for anything serious, and it works pretty well.  In the past, I’ve used Perl for things like this, but I thought I’d give Python a try this time.

My build script interfaces with Mercurial to grab the latest copy of the source code and to generate a version number.  It then builds the executable using gnu make,strips the symbols for the final build, copies data files to a staging directory,then uses Palm-provided batch files to create the ipk file that’s used to install the app to the device.  The script makes a backup of all the necessary files so I should be able to track down a bug in an old version fairly easily.

I’m planning to put the game up on the Beta feed shortly, when I work out whether I can use my current Palm developer account or not.  I’m going to avoid putting my name on the game, but I set up my developer account with my real name.  So I need to see if I can change it or if I need to set up a new developer account.

I just need to finish up putting the credits into the game to fulfill the requirements of the Creative Commons Attribution license under which the art and audio assets are distributed.

Without any marketing effort, I don’t expect many people to see this version of the game, but I’m hoping there are some people with webOS devices that check the Beta feed regularly and might be interested in trying out a new game.

Game Assets

November 30, 2010

The game assets (artwork, audio, etc.) for Brand Name Space Game are all either free,using a Creative Commons license that allows commercial use, or created by me.  This was pretty much the only way I could achieve my budget goal of $0 (that budget excludes my time,of course).

A number of talented artists and sound designers have made assets available to anyone, even for commercial use, via the Creative Commons Attribution licenses.  See creativecommons.org and specifically http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ or http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/for information about the license.  It allows works to be used by anyone as long as the work is properly attributed.  My game has several credits screens that supply those attributions along with links to the creator’s pages.  I’ll put up attributions on the inertia360.com web site also.

There’s a treasure trove of great scifi-themed pixel art, free to use, at lostgarden.com.  It looks like there’s a some other fantasy-themed art there, too, but I haven’t look at that much.  The scifi stuff is what I use for just about all my artwork in Brand NameSpace Game.

There are a ton of sound samples available under the Creative Commons Attribution license at freesound.org.  It takes a while to sift through all the sounds and settle on ones that sound good, but it’s well worth it.

Free Tools

November 16, 2010

I want to list some of the tools I’m using for the development of Brand Name Space Game in case anyone is interested.  My goal for this game is to have a budget of exactly $0, not counting my time.  To this end, I’m using a number of free and open source tools.

I use Mercurial for version control.  It’s free and it’s convenient to use, especially for a team of one.  Unfortunately, it lacks the ability to lock files, which is a necessity when you’re dealing with binary files that more than one user might edit.  So if I had a full development team with designers and artists, I’d have to come up with a locking solution external to the version control solution, or just use Perforce instead.

For issue and task tracking, I use the free “Student and Startup” version of Fogbugz that is hosted on their servers.  This has been very useful for tracking tasks and I hope touse it for bug tracking as well.  Its method of estimating schedules looks like it will be really useful too, given enough historical data.  I’d like to introduce this tool toa full development team to see if it would help putting together accurate schedules.

I use Gimp to do some light image editing and have found it to be powerful and convenient.I use it primarily to scale images, modify colors, and add transparency, so it doesn’t need to do an awful lot, but it fits my needs perfectly.

I use Audacity for audio editing, although I don’t do too much.  I usually just need to convert from stereo to mono or to cut out parts of sounds and Audacity works fine for that.  For sample rate conversion, I use the command line tool sox, which is great for doing batch processing on audio files.

I use the Tiled editor from mapeditor.org to edit 2D tile maps.  This tool has been great to use, especially since it transitioned from Java to C++.  It makes it really easy to create tile maps and the export format is convenient to use, although I did write a converter to take the XML and turn it into binary data that the game reads.

For text display in the game, I have my own font format.  I built some tools using FreeType 2(to render TrueType fonts to bitmaps) and DevIL (to convert bitmap data to PNG image data).

I use gnu make to build the webOS version of the app and Visual Studio 2008 to build a Windows version for testing.  I use the Visual Studio 2008 editor to edit source code.