Archive for July, 2011

5 Colors Pandora

27 Jul

Was clearing my temporary bookmarks, and came across to a link to this game: “5 Colors Pandora”.


I remember playing this one in Ludum Dare 16 (the one where I submitted my “Cursed” game), but I didn’t had the time to finish it… Decided to have a go at it again, and it was very good…

“5 Colors Pandora” is an exploration game… no split second reflexes, no enemies, just exploration and environmental manipulation, which makes this a soothing game; the story is whatever you think up while playing, which enhances the experience (making the player part auteur; would have liked a bit more “directed” storytelling, but that’s a matter of personal taste, of course).

Have a go at it, you can finish it in less than 30 minutes!

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22 Jul

The video below shows the game I’ve been working on my spare time with a friend. The working title is Amoeba, and it is being developed with Spellbook running over Marmalade.

Progress has been nice and steady, considering I’ve worked a total of 4 or 5 hours on it, not counting the basic porting time for Spellbook.


We deliberately chose a simple game to develop, since we wanted to tackle loads of stuff at the same time (developing for mobiles, distribution, marketing, etc) and we didn’t want to have to worry about the game development as well…

As it is, the game is about using your finger to “grab” unicellular organisms of the same color. If you collect enough, you’ll get a “Breakthrough” that allows you to advance to the next level. If you grab an organism of a different color of the one you’re currently grabbing, they’ll nullify each other and the risk of “Infection” is greater.

Not groundbreaking, but I’m hoping to achieve other objectives than perfect game design with this one:

  • Finish a game for mobile devices
  • Getting it into the market
  • Marketing it


Some challenges so far were to adjust the game to different device orientations and to different aspect ratios, both of which are already up and running…

Next steps include some basic GUI work and level progression… After that, level design and sound, and finally polish and menu stuff…

The video above is running in the ARM emulator that comes with Marmalade, but the game runs exactly the same in my Samsung Galaxy S (an Android phone).


One-Button Arthur

19 Jul

Another awesome one-button game: One-Button Arthur.

It’s from the same creator of One-Button Bob, it runs about the same length and it’s super-fun… Smile

I’m feeling a huge urge to do a one-button game for mobiles, specially if I can make it data-driven enough so that my friends can help me with level design…

For now, it’s just a pipe dream… Smile

Been working on the mobile stuff, particularly orientation of the device… under Marmalade, it’s a bit complicated, since I already have a virtual resolution system that seems to clash a bit with their own, and I’ve been finding it difficult to find the orientation of the device from the low-level stuff… think I’ll have to use the resolution change event to find out the current resolution and extrapolate orientation from there…

Also found out that my cellphone (a Samsung Galaxy S) doesn’t detect the orientation change when it is upside down (which shouldn’t be a problem, to be honest).

I’ll start working on my current game in the next few days, starting with some background elements and interaction with the player’s finger…


Textures working

15 Jul

Worked a bit on the port of Spellbook to the Marmalade framework, got textures working:


That’s on the emulator (couldn’t take a decent photograph on my Samsung Galaxy S)…

Was quite complicated getting this to work, actually…

1) Had to build a DDS loader… Although it currently only supports R8G8B8A8, R8G8B8 and A8 formats, it can be easily extended in the future (specially when I understand some more about OpenGL, since OGL ES 1.0 only supports RGB, RGBA and LUMINANCE textures). Thankfully, I did half the work some time before when I did an iPhone application.

2) After I got this working, I only had a white square on the screen, where my sprite should be… After loads of mucking around in all the wrong places, I found out on a forum the solution: I had mipmapping enabled when I did the glTexImage2D to load the texture, so the function was still waiting for the rest of the data (for the mipmaps), and I wasn’t giving it any… so the texture creation process wasn’t finished and hence the white square…

3) Channel ordering:


Might have trouble seeing it, but the red and blue channel is switched… OpenGL stores the information differently from DirectX, which might be a problem in the future, when I want to do cross platform dynamic texture updating.

Anyway, the sprite you’re seeing is animated. It was generated with IBGen, a tool I built that grabs a 3d model and its animations and export a sprite sheet, an image bank and animation data to be used in 2d games. Below you can see an example of a sprite sheet:


The packing system isn’t very good yet, but it serves my purposes…

Still don’t know what my next step is, but probably a better reaction to different orientations of the mobile (currently the graphics get drawn offscreen, etc, because Marmalade is reacting to it itself, which makes for weird effects).


Mobile madness!

14 Jul

Hey all!

I’ve been a bit busy lately, finishing up a project for work that kind of consumed all my life, except World of Warcraft (yay, killed Shannox, got a Eternal Ember!!).

Anyway, I’ve been working on the port of Spellbook onto the Marmalade framework (so I can use it in future mobile games). Also been talking a lot about mobile games and some of the ex-members of Spellcaster Studios decided to do some experimental games on those platforms..

I’ve never been much of a “mobile gamer”, most of my knowledge of games on mobile platforms being from mainstream websites (so I only know the more famous titles, and most of those seem to resemble Flash games anyway), so I decided to check out what’s out what’s there.

I’ve looked around and I found Touch Arcade, which is a site dedicated to iPhone games… although my target will probably be iOS, Android and Windows7 phones, it’s still a good place to start, and I found some stuff there that was quite interesting, specially from a technical standpoint:



So, not all mobile games must look like Flash games, and some of them have quite interesting graphics, from a technical standpoint…

For the record, I knew there were games on the iPhone that didn’t look like Flash games, but most of them actually do… it’s refreshing to see something that escapes from that normalized graphical look.

Anyway, in the next weeks I hope to be able to find the time to port Spellbook onto Marmalade and get some simple games up and running!

This is the current state of the port:


This doesn’t look impressive (specially with such a blurry photo), but it shows the blitting system working (without textures yet, need to add a DDS loader), with a fixed function pipeline shader that gets translated from my own engine structures (similar to DirectX) to OpenGL ES. This shader is read through my resource manager, from a file in my own format. The blit system used my mesh system, so that’s a double victory. Projections (in this case orthogonal) are also handled by my system.

This wouldn’t be a big achievement for anybody but me, since I’ve never worked in any depth with OpenGL, let alone OpenGL ES, and my engine is all DirectX based…

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Some Marmalade, please…

08 Jul


I’ve been experimenting some stuff on mobile development, specially for iOS and Android…

Although I managed to build solid applications for both platforms, I’m always annoyed that I can’t use my normal development routines…


Stuck with XCode (which is dreadful) and Mac in particular (which I hate, to be honest)… To minimize by grief, I used the excelent Synergy, which enabled me to use my keyboard and mouse on the Mac and PC at the same time, without using ugly and non-functional KVMs, since it’s a fully customizable software solution… After I got that working, I still use Visual Studio with a remapped directory to do all the editing of code on the Mac… Basically, I just use the Mac to compile and debug.

But, even with this setup, I’m still stuck with Objective-C, which is horrible, and a unwieldy framework… Although I can work with that, it’s far from optimal…

Well, at least it has the advantage of being able to compile C and C++ code, which enables me to port parts of Spellbook (my engine) to it, making it a bit easier doing multimedia applications, unlike…


Java… really, think that says all… Although Java isn’t as bad as Objective-C, it’s still a far cry from pure C++ in terms of code development (at least for me… I’ve got 15 years of C/C++ experience, and only 3 or 4 of Java, and never in the fields of multimedia).

The Android framework is slightly nicer than the iOS one, and Eclipse is much better than XCode, so it has that going for it… but still… Java…


So, until now, if I wanted to do a cross-platform game, I’d have to go through an existing engine like Unity, do two wholly different implementations of the game (just reusing assets), or ignore one of the platforms (which sounds like a terrible idea)…

Enter Marmalade… Marmalade is a framework that wraps most of the functionality of mobile frameworks and compiles ARM code directly, making the games developed with it able to be deployed in several platforms (iOS, Android, Bada, Symbian, webOS, with more coming soon)… And the best part is that you can develop and debug the games with Visual Studio (on the PC) or XCode (on Mac), using an ARM emulator… The build process is quite simple, and deploying the various versions can be done with some scripts and one button…

It’s really a good product… Initially, you have to edit a text file that describes some options of your project (files that are part of it, etc)… Then, (after you install Marmalade properly), you just double click the file and it generates a Visual Studio or XCode environment that you can work with like it was any normal application.

My experience was so good, I had my engine (all 200k lines of it) compiling under it in less than one day… Of course, this is just compiling, not working, since I have to implement an OpenGL ES layer to replace my normal DirectX layer… Anyway, got some of that working in one additional day (I got some amazing colored squares on screen, powered by Spellbook, with FFP “shaders” imported from Reality files (my own format), with some simple behaviors).

They even replace the C stdlib in the ARM projects, so that you can use the normal C functions you’re used to!


If anybody is looking into a good cross-platform development environment, I can recommend it… It has its drawbacks:

  • Documentation is terrible, but fortunately not very necessary, since you’re (hopefully) programming with the C stdlib, STL and OpenGL ES.
  • The code footprint seems to be a bit big, but it probably can be cut down with some options (I optimized for speed, not size)…
  • Price… There’s a 90 day evaluation license, but after that you have to pay for it… There’s Basic subscription, that costs $150 USD/year (which is more than the budget of loads of indies I know), and only supports iOS and Android, besides having an ugly splash screen when the game starts… And then there’s Standard, which supports all the platforms (except for the Beta ones) and doesn’t have the splash, for an hefty price of $500 USD/year… The price is a bit steep for indies, but if this just has to be weighted between the cost of doing different applications for different platforms or having a “one-size-fits-all” approach… Of course, Unity is less than that for indies, but it has its own set of restrictions for development (I don’t like GUI-based game engines, maybe that’s just me). The yearly fee might also be a deal breaker for lots of people, even if they have the money to spend on the license…They have an “App Program” that might ease the financial burden (or even remove it), but they’ll take 20% of your profits (although they do the distribution in all stores, etc) and you have to be approved by them…


The financial issue is the only thing that really detracts from the whole concept, and I think that if you’re serious in going indie, it might be worth the investment… Take a look at the evaluation and see if it’s for you! Smile


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Pax Britannica

04 Jul

I’ve always loved one-button games… and found if impressive that game designers can stuff a game full of fun with just one button…

Following this this thread of thought, I came across “Pax Britannica”:


You can download this free game here.

The idea of the game is to defeat your enemies in a space battle royal, using only one button… Up to four players can play on a single keyboard (unfortunately, the single player is a tad too easy to really enjoy the game), and they can hold only one key… That will trigger a needle in the UI, and releasing the button will make a ship spawn. That ship will depend on the quadrant in which the needle is.

The game as a bit more tactic that it seems at first glance, and it’s a load of fun… and more importantly, should make game designers think about their design decisions… as I said in the past, I don’t care much for developing one-button-games, but thinking about the distillation of the game components into one button helps distinguish what’s fun and what’s not, and how to simplify the UI and actions available in the game to their most basic form, until all you have left is pure game, no fluff… Of course, a game like this is only fun for an hour or so, but adding more components to it is easy enough by extending the GUI, but keeping always in mind that all additions must bring a load more fun to the game and discard the idea if it doesn’t…

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Pixel Junk Shooter 2 and Portal 2

01 Jul

Sequel galore!

I highly anticipated both titles, since I loved the originals, and I wasn’t disappointed!


Like its predecessor (duh!), this is a twin shooter, but with more emphasis on the puzzles. It has a gorgeous fluid engine, and most puzzles involved manipulating or avoiding these in some ways, collecting gems and rescuing miners… It doesn’t have much in a way of storyline, and its just an arcade game that’s fun to play…

Check out the gameplay (easier than trying to explain):

As I said, loads of fun… There’s always a but, though; the gameplay doesn’t seem as fun as the first one, don’t know if it is because the first one was new, and this game feels more suitable as an expansion pack than as a new game (although it’s long enough to justify full price)… The boss fights were harder and better designed, in my opinion, but the puzzles themselves were straightforward (and the lightless sections, which take up half the game) tend to get boring after a bit… 8/10



Ah, this is a gem… Although the critics were a bit nasty to this one, I think it was rather unfair.

Portal 2 is basically the same as Portal 1 (first person, puzzle based), but on steroids… It’s longer, it has more stuff thrown in (the gels, that give different properties to surfaces, like making you run faster, jump higher or being able to put portals in any surface), and the humor is great.

The environment is the real star in this game, telling a story by itself… It goes even a step further than the first Portal game, by going back to the 50s showing the initial “Aperture Science” facility… No, it’s not time travel or flashback… Smile The game has now three voices instead of just one, GLaDOS returns, the sense and type of humor is intact… The only caveat might be that the puzzles are a wee bit easier this time around, but that might be because I’m already thinking in portals…

The game got so immersive that when I went outside after playing, I was looking at surfaces and thinking “I could make a portal there”!

It’s an amazing game and I can hardly wait to play the co-op (since loads of people have told me it’s the best part of the game… if that’s true, it will be like crack!)… If I find the co-op that amazing, I’ll add an addendum to this! Smile 10/10

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