We Must Go Smaller! (Mini Microcomputers)

This story begins the usual way really, couple of guys making games, submitting said games to cons. Trekking out to said cons with said, said games. But when you’re so small the machine you’re showing with is your personal laptop and main dev machine… there’s some stress involved in going to the bathroom or grabbing food. It’s not just that it’s a $2k Macbook Pro, it’s also very large chunk of your life/business. So my business partner Zenas and I started exploring various lower cost and high portability solutions. Namely the Raspberry Pi 2, Ouya, and finally the Intel NUC.

The Raspberry Pi 2 was the first box we tried. At roughly $35 it’s not a big deal if anything happens to it. The RPi2 is a lot beefier than the first RPi sporting a quad core and some minimal hardware acceleration built in.

We ran into our first problem: We’re a Unity shop, and while Unity does target RPi’s OS of choice, Linux, it doesn’t build an ARM compatible version. Luckily, it does target Windows IOT via Windows 10 Universal builds so I hacked away at that. I rewrote more than a few things since the .Net subset it builds to lacks reflection. (It works closer to building for iOS where Unity builds a project, that you then go into to build/deploy.) I did get it running… kind of.

We ran into our second problem: The test game, Super Rock Blasters, appears pretty simple graphics-wise, but uses several fullscreen post effects to make those simple graphics pop. It chugged. It wasn’t even trying to run our post effects, it was chugging on pure un-textured geometry and it was locked to a weird resolution. I tried optimizing but I found out that Windows IOT hasn’t implemented any support for hardware acceleration. (In fact I was hard put to find any OS for RPi that has hardware acceleration.) So the RPi2’s GPU is sitting on it’s hands while the little quad-core brute forces out rasterized triangles. So we moved on from that idea.

The next box we tried is a leftover Ouya at the Game Forge. With Ouya bought out by Razer and the Ouya hardware entering it’s end of life it’s not that much of a concern if it gets damaged. (though there is no way to replace it…) I’ve ported games to Ouya in the past, so several long downloads/installs later I built and pushed SRB over. It ran fairly smooth (Ouya’s API squeezes a lot of OPs out of the their little box) but the max supported graphics API is OpenGL 2ES. So again, things looked kind of shitty. For our less post-effect intensive games such as Monsters! or Dungeon Sweeper it looks hella fine, so we’ll probably take it to hook into a spare monitor when we have room.

There was much optimization to be done if we wanted to show SRB on an Ouya, so  we talked it through. Eventually we decided we wanted to get an Intel NUC for our main demo PC. The NUC is a book-sized mini PC similar to the Gigabyte BRIX. They call them book sized, but honestly I’ve seen far bigger… books. We knew it would have the horse power, and since we didn’t currently have a SteamOS box we decided to kill two birds with 1 stone… which led to an entirely different adventure which I’ll cover in the next post.

Stay tuned.

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We love blowing up our friends! AKA Super Rock Blasters on itchi.io

“Do you have friends? Do you like blowing them up?” – Will Stallwood, Cipher Prime

We embraced the insane, chaotic, and non-stop gotcha” moments… wait  we are we talking about making or playing the game? From shelved game jam game, to 1 month dev blitz, to shipped, this is Super Rock Blasters.

The story of Super Rock Blasters starts many months back to a game jam at Philly Dev Night. The theme was, “local-multiplayer” and Zenas, partner and founder of QuadraTron, did (and still does) have passionate affair with Asteroids. It wasn’t at all surprising when he made a 4 player version of Asteroids where 2 players mine coins from the asteroids while the other two players play offense trying to blow the other team up. At the time it was called Team Rock Blasters.

Fast forward to a little over a month ago, there was an invitation to show off a local multiplayer game at the PHL Collectives office. Our current work, on Threshold and Monsters! Reborn!, was deadlocked so we grabbed SRB off the shelf, gutted the old screwed up input system, and barely brought had a game to show for it.

But people had FUN. (WTF?!) So when we managed to get some table space at Wizard World, we set it up beside Threshold which we’re trying to promote. (Threshold got Greenlit! Woohoo!) At Wizard World people had MORE FUN. That weekend we knew we wanted to get it to a “shippable” state and put it out there for people.

So began a month of hell. We gutted most of the game. Almost everything in the game was redone in some small way. We tightened up the core gameplay loop and most importantly we greatly increased our ability to tweak the game on the fly. Some time in the future we’d like to roll up all that customization-juice and let player play around with it.

Grab it on itch.io below!

FakeStoreWidget

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Preparing for GDC

Wow , it’s that time of year again when I double check my little webpage about myself that I never post to. My last post was almost exactly a year ago but it feels like three. My life has changed so much from getting Mark of the Old Ones funded, biking to work over the summer, wrapping up MotOO and moving on to a new project Threshold.

allthecontrollers

Controller support… Check.

Mark of the Old Ones was successfully Kickstarted (when websites become verbs) late spring last year and the non-stop cruncho-coaster ride began. Going from what we thought was a full game to an actually full almost polished game (Being the programmer, I ended up leaving a month before the game was due to come out.) is a lot like what I imagine raising a child is like. Towards the end I couldn’t wait for it to move out and get it’s own job… but I also missed the simpler days of adding new features and being amazed by all the potential.

chillywinterbikeride

It’s only freezing!

 

Commuting by bike to work has to have been one of my best ideas of 2014. I started by riding a slightly undersized mountain bike a friend sold me for $50. Especially since being a programmer is typically so sedentary, a nice workout in the morning really helps your mood and focus. I didn’t lose a lot of weight like I was hoping but I don’t really care.


magfest2015

Team QuadraTron at MagFest

But my work at Hit the Sticks ended, as did the tolerable bicycle weather and I moved on to a (sort of) new project. Threshold was originally a project from the 2014 Global Game Jam with a team of around 7 people. The theme was “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” which is pretty much the gist of the game we made. In Threshold the direction you are facing determines changes what time/world you are looking at. Turn left and it’s winter, the leafy platforms fade away and ice and snow become platforms for you to walk upon. Turn right and the icy platform melts.

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

 

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GDC 2014

It’s Friday, the last(official) day of GDC! During the week my boss, Jordan, sent me the latest trailer iteration for Mark of the Old Ones. So, not all of this is ‘official’ footage nor guaranteed to be in the game.

I haven’t put a lot of time into my blog since I got hired at Hit the Sticks about a year and a half ago, but being here at GDC and watching energetically people express their passions has inspired me, so expect more!

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Mark of the Old Ones Kickstarter goes live!

The company I work at just launched a Kickstarter to help fund our next game. It might not have been the greatest idea to let our actual team represent the game instead of someone who’s really good at talking and selling things… but maybe people will appreciate our transparency? *shrug*

Anyway check it out!
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1168767162/mark-of-the-old-ones?ref=recently_launched

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Divaddition

Due to some circumstances I was sitting around with some time on my hands, so I wrote this little program based on a challenge posted in the code golf section of stack

http://pastebin.com/cTQsvaHk

#include <stdio.h>

static int addCounter;

int add(int a, int b)
{
++addCounter;
return a + b;
}

int divide(int dividend, int divisor)
{
int quotient = 0, accumulator = 0, quantity = divisor, counter = 1;

while(42) {
if (add(accumulator, quantity) > dividend) {
if (counter == 1)
break;

counter = 1;
quantity = divisor;
}
else if (add(accumulator, quantity) == dividend) {
quotient = add(quotient, counter);
break;
}
else {
quotient = add(quotient, counter);
accumulator = add(accumulator, quantity);
quantity = add(quantity, quantity);
counter = add(counter, counter);
}
}

return quotient;
}

void main(char **stuff)
{
int a = 5;
int b = 10;
int i = 0;
int q;

for (i = 0; i < 150; ++i, a+=27) {
addCounter = 0;
q = divide(a, b);
printf(“%d / %d = %d | Additions : (%d)\n”, a, b, q, addCounter);
}
}

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Cell phone sorcery

Alright, so like a week or so ago me and Aubrey were talking about phone plans, (keep in mind texting has been sucking up the majority of my account balance since it’s $0.10 for every text I receive/send) and he dug up an old article on a T-Mobile prepaid plan. $30 a month for unlimited data(5GB)/text with 100 minutes of talk. Pretty much sounds like a custom tailored plan to me… so I went in search of it…

I found it, but it was for new activations only… so I started to scheme. What if I had a new activation, but transferred my old number? I went to online chat to ask about this and got fairly positive answers. SO I went to a T-Mobile store, but they couldn’t do the things I wanted and directed me to Walmart Caverns for a prepaid kit.

As I arrived in the antechamber that is the Walmart tech desk, overrun by zombies, I found they no longer had any kits. In fact the last kit had already been taken by a previous adventure long ago, a tale lost to antiquity.

But there was still a way! A funny little elf (the guy at the counter) said I could by a phone with a SIM card, for only 20gp no less! I was quick to accept the offer and fled the infernal Walmart caverns with my loot, a flip phone, a sim card, and a cherry coke. Assembling the device was easy, too easy. I would have to enter the interwebs, and enter I did, on very crappy wifi I might add. Activating the new number was a straight forward ritual, going past all the crappy plans they wanted me to take I scrolled my way through and found my goal second to the bottom of the list.

Now came the hard part, switching the numbers! I sent a chat pigeon to a wizard with my request and a chat prompt materialized from the void (srsly guise, it wuz freekii) and attempted to walk me through the incantation. Hours later it was “done” said the wizard. I had only to wait for 24 hours and the sorcery would be complete.

But WOE when I woke the next morning, the sorcery had already taken effect, albeit in a foul fashion. The SIMs of my phones had swapped souls, number, plan, and all. This would not do! So I sent another messenger pigeon for another wizard. This time a sorceress replied. This sorceress was a bit impatient, a little bit of a foul personality, with an obvious loathing towards human-folk.

But perhaps that is the cost associated with genius. In less than an hour she changed the numbers, transfer the excess balance, and deactivated the unneeded number. So quick and effortless was the incantation I can scarce remember her doing anything at all.

And that, friends, was as true story as any story told.

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