Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

I’m really excited about using Articy Draft for my next project. The biggest issue with it for me is the tool chain. For sure you can buy Articy Access but unless they’ve changed it, it’s about 1700 Euros per project. and it requires the server version of Articy Draft which is way more pricey than the single-user version and more work (I assume) to set up and maintain because of the server component (which I have no need for). So price wise it’s sort of too expensive on several levels and waaay more complicated than I need.

So I’m whipping out my XML and LINQ hats, putting them one on top of the other, and gonna spend some time creating a more universal adapter for Unity3D. In the end I want it to be able to connect up to behavior trees (I’m using Angry Ant’s Behave2).   I noticed that there’s already a product that does some of that, but it’s written in JavaScript (why?) and appears to be simpler than what I want to do.

Honestly, with the zillions of Unity devs I don’t know what the Articy folks don’t make a simple adapter for getting their XML into Unity themselves, aimed at users who are using the standalone Articy.

First DUMB thing I ran into is that at least for Unity 4.2 you have to hunt around the Unity installation to grab the proper assembly for System.Linq and drag it into a plugins folder in your Assets window. It’s about 100 kB but for sure I’ll have to remember to remove it before a final release build. Sigh. Really doesn’t make sense that I can’t use that in an Editor-ish class but I understand why.

More as time passes…

 

You’d expect that any 3D models that you’d use in a  Unity app would have been created in an external 3D modelling program like Maya or Blender. But there are a few Unity plug-ins that let you model right in the editor. I have purchased two of them: GameDraw from MixedDimensions and ProBuilder from SixBySevenStudio.

Both of these plug-ins let you create 3D models within Unity, and edit them on a per-vertex, per-face, or per-edge basis. GameDraw includes a UV editor so you can even do that task without leaving Unity. ProBuilder has really nice control over many things having to do with colliders. Actually, both have an almost overwhelming number of features, and I’ll gladly admit I have just started using these packages.

If the two companies combined what they have into one product they’d have something so amazing that it’d be unbeatable. More to come as I explore these products further…

People often just shut off game music; I often do. It can get annoying. But it’s sort of required thing, no?  So I decided to try to use “found” music from the ‘net as game music for Numberheads – it was quite the adventure.

Because Unity3D supports (sort of, but it turned out to be mega-buggy) MOD and other “Tracker” files as Audio assets I decided to try that route. One benefit of this file type is really, really, really small size compared to even MP3 files.

I ended up at THE MOD ARCHIVE where I learned about the Demo Scene and tracker music and found a lot of wildly interesting compositions. One unfortunate thing is that much of the content is fairly old and if you want to be Copyright savvy you need to contact the author; I for one don’t want to steal. Not to mention the fact that Apple can question you on your ownership or licensing of any content you use.

Contact turned out to be difficult – most of the email addresses that I found were non-working. I was able to find a few and ended up using some music from Skaven (a Finnish musician whose real name is Peter Hajba, he’s the author of the remarkable music for Bejeweled 2). Music from M0D *Greg Tuby” was found thru Modarchive.org and the pieces of his that I used are in the public domain.

I thought that this was real cool until I began to try to use the music in the game – sure, it’s relatively easy to import the MOD files into Unity3D. They play just fine, too. But whatever is doing the playing is buggy, and makes crashes, especially when changing scenes, even if you’ve stopped the music before changing scenes. And it ain’t me – the player runs in another thread and I have no access to it other than to start and stop it. Mod files in, game crashes randomly. Mod files out, game never crashes. So out they go.

Sigh. I gave up on MOD files and converted them into MP3s. Fortunately, Apple in its wonderfulness, had just expanded the over-the-air download size limit from 20 MBytes to 50 MBytes; so this was less of an issue than it was when I began the quest for music that didn’t take up a lot of room.

These converted MOD files are used in the “Classic” variant of Numberheads. I had purchased a lifetime subscription to Arteria3D’s content and found a wonderfully edgy tune to use for the “Speed” game variation. Finally, the “Zenoic” variation needed something sort of ethereal, and I found a collection of Creative-Commons Attribution licensed music on Incompetech.com.

So it was all “found” on the internet, although I paid for some of it. Overall I probably spent time over about 6 months hunting for it. But it was something I was really picky about, although in the end most people will shut it off anyway! So it goes…

Upgrading Blues

Posted: February 9, 2013 in Musings, Programming

So I thought that it’d be pretty simple to upgrade Numberheads from an iPad-only app to one that supports iPhone as well. But as the gears began to turn…

iPhone portrait mode. iPad landscape mode. Three different aspect ratios. 50 mByte download size limit. Uh oh. Put it all together and it spells trouble.

I planned to only support iPad when I started this project, so I set it up as landscape mode. But that just isn’t right for iPhone. This style game seems to be usually presented in portrait mode. But it’d be crazy to have the iPhone version of a “universal” app (one app to run on the iPhone or iPad) be portrait and the iPad version be landscape.

All the art has to be reoriented for portrait mode, and three versions need to be created and stored in the app to support the three different aspect ratios.

At least all the art was created in Adobe Illustrator, so scaling will be easy and artifact-free.

So while there aren’t going to be a lot of code revisions to add iPhone support, there’s a lot of time to be spent in Photoshop and Illustrator. Ah well, live and learn.

I’m glad that I’m not depending on app sales to eat. After about a week on the App Store, Numberheads has sold about 1 dozen copies. Truthfully, I didn’t really expect app nirvana on day 1, and I know that getting discovered means spending gigabux or doing guerilla marketing.

So far, it looks like the best methods are promo code giveaways and social networking using twitter and/or facebook.

There are plenty of sites that will let you pay reviewers to buy your app and write nice reviews. I don’t want to go that route. There’s also twitter spam. Naah.

I have real doubts whether all the websites that put up reviews can actually affect your sales in anything other than a transient fashion, but I’m going to try it anyway. It seems as if discoverability on the Apple App Store is a hit-and-miss thing. You need reviews to get noticed, you need sales to get reviews, and you need reviews to get sales. Almost like a catch-22, eh?

Catch-22 cover

The Numberheads Backstory

Posted: February 1, 2013 in Musings

The idea for Numberheads came from my own frustration with playing match-3 games like the amazing Bejeweled and Chuzzle (both of those names are trademarks of Electronic Arts). It wasn’t the gameplay that frustrated me, but the colors drove me nuts!

I have to admit to being a little colorblind, and that little was enough to make me have to work a little harder to play these games. Some other similar games added more colors as levels increase; sometimes so much so that I couldn’t play them. Or I’d get eyestrain.

So the lightbulb went off “why not use numbers!” . I was only going to create a prototype, for fun, and at first I was thinking of matching numbers that are the same, like 1-1-1 and so on. Then I latched on to what turned out to be the two key features of what eventually became Numberheads:

  • Use number sequences to create a match
  • Pieces can move in all 8 directions and not just up-down-left-right

Both of these things turned a simple software project into something quite a bit more complicated. It’s not that hard to create software to match three things that are the same, as you can tell from the huge number of matching games on the App Store and elsewhere. But number sequences are another matter, and it took a long time to get it right. Allowing moves to be in 8 directions made the development of software to find hints a lot more difficult, especially one to find hints in a reasonable time.

I’m sure programmers reading the last paragraph are pulling out the “BS” card here, but if you actually try to create an engine that can check for the user having created a number sequence match when moving two pieces, and do so quickly enough that there’s no perceptible delay before you begin to remove pieces upon success – and on a relative weak compute platform like a mobile device – well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s even worse when trying to create an engine that can present a hint to a user within a few seconds – there are a lot of permutations when pieces can move in eight directions.

Disregarding software design issues for a while, games also have to be fun, right? I thoroughly loved the first version of Numberheads, but all my beta testers told me it was confusing. That version was a lot different than the one released on the App Store. Rewriting and tuning the second version created something that I found myself addicted to playing; and, more importantly, others felt the same way.

Now that it’s out in the wild, we’ll see what everyone else thinks…