Wednesday, December 12, 2012

OGE And Game Updates

Lots of game dev happening this fall, but most of it has been on our 2D port of the fireflies web game we made for the CDN contest last summer.  The team at Bearhanded (where I work) decided to take our web game and make it a mobile game to be released before Christmas.  Needless to say we decided to vastly expand on the original game, adding many more game objects, levels, pizzaz and eye candy yada yada.

Do you recognize the first level from our web version?

The graphics got a major overhaul, and as a minor note the characters in these Beta screenshots do not represent the final characters - those are still in progress.  We also decided to have 3 trees in the initial release; the first tree has daylight levels in the middle of the day, the second tree levels take place at dusk and the third at night, which means we're going to add a whole new aspect to the game - dynamic shadows and lighting!

This level is ALL developer art, but it shows the colored lights and shadows effects.

There will also be pulley systems, bounce pads (disguised as red mushrooms), sap that you can sink into, enemy pushers, bombers, moths, worms, tubes, torches, cannons and maybe even more if we don't say "when" soon.  We've added so much that we had to push back our release till early 2013.

This will be our companies first iOS game release so we're trying not to get our hopes up and just to make a game we all can be proud of, though recouping our investments would be nice.

Ye OGE (Open source Game Engine)

ye link

While all this 2D stuff has been going on, I've been working with Ralph on upgrading the libraries OGE uses and improving on the CMake build system.   At this point, it appears to be working on windows 7 and linux, but not on OSX.

What's been holding back progress on the planet?  Well, I've kinda decided to give OGE a real run for the money and see if I can't make it work before giving up and rolling my own, simpler game engine.  I've got the latest planet stuff running in OGE, and have been creating sample projects to track down various major bugs like random thread/memory crash bugs and physics stutter bugs.  Ain't no fun to play a game that stutters and I've noticed that stuttering seems to be a common problem when working with physics engines. If you're a physics or threading guru I would love for you to take a look at those parts of the OGE code.

This is my temporary MyGUI implementation in my planet test suite with the latest OGE (bogey tracker broken in this build!)

This is my little physics sample that I hope will help me nail the stutter bugs.

I've also added a version of the OGRE profiler to OGE and added optional profiling blocks to all the major systems for now.  It doesn't really work like I would like, but it's better than nothing for now.

No fav games of 2012 post because I mostly just play one game - Natural Selection 2!  They finally released it and it is super fun.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

CDN 2012 Game "Fireflies" Postmortem

Fireflies Game Home Screen

This year the whole Bearhanded team decided to participate in the Christian Developers Network Speedgame.  We created an online multiplayer game called Fireflies.  The theme this year was "testimony" and we decided we wanted to do a multiplayer game with HTML5 and NodeJS.  What came out of our brainstorming was a simple puzzle game where players control various types of game pieces and use them to get to the exit in each level.  To accommodate the testimony aspect of the competition, we chose to show how each person's testimony is influenced by many people and so we created a sort of spiritual family tree in which each level starts out dark and after completing each level it lights up and the next level is unlocked.  The idea being that God uses many people in our lives and in their lives to reach us with the gospel.  When the whole tree is lit up, then the game is completed and the #parteh begins!

Fireflies Game Level 1
Level 1 is very straight forward no?

There are 5 levels, starting with simple puzzles and ending in some rather difficult ones.  The final level is very difficult to beat by yourself, and even with three people it can take some time to finish.

Fireflies Game Level 2
Every game needs a jumping puzzle! #lies


We took our design cues from games like Lemmings,  Limbo, Botanicula and whatever was tossing around in our subconscious!  Chris was the primary designer and Aaron took his characters and animated them using After Effects.  Nate then took the animations and put them in the game.


Fireflies was built with the following technologies & libraries
  • NodeJS - server game logic
  • NowJS - server and client networking
  • HTML5 - client audio and canvas support
  • CSS3 - text glow effects and drop shadows
  • Box2d - client physics
  • Cocos2d-javascript - canvas drawing
  • jQuery - various UI elements
I did all of the Javascript for the server and client using Aptana as my editor.  This editor is free and good looking and the code completion is pretty decent.  It's basically another flavor of Eclipse.
I love using dark text editor themes - if only it darkened the frame too #sigh
Chris used Tiled to build our levels and Nate used Zwoptex to make our sprite sheets for our animations.  Both are free and support Cocos2d.
Simple, but it works and it's free!

Thoughts and ramblings

For anyone interested in using any of these technologies you should be aware of several things I discovered:
- Cocos2d-javascript is still very alpha, with lots of unimplemented features, many bugs or things that don't work in every browser, few working up-to-date examples and not very optimized.  All that being said, it does work for simple things and it performed fairly well for our little game.   To integrate box2d physics with cocos2d I had to modify the level import code to support reading polygon objects.  Then in my client code I used the polygons to create box2d static shapes.

- NodeJS is really hot these days and can do some amazing things.  No complaints here except that it uses Javascript.  All the wonderful things you are used to with object oriented programming are imitated and asynchronous behaviors abound.

- NowJS allows you to easily synchronize variables between server and client and do remote procedure calls, however I quickly discovered that due to the asynchronous nature of  NodeJS, using variable synchronizing would give random bad values and I ended up having to use remote procedure calls for everything.  The groups feature is how we contain players in levels and it is super easy to do and useful and awesome.

- Box2d is made for realistic physics, not platformers.  I really had to punch it in the face to get it under any semblance of control and the player input still feels awkward and annoying to me.  Physics engines sound like an obvious choice when you're making a puzzle game, but when it comes to platformers you want a certain un-realistic feel for player input 9 times out of 10.  So to bring box2d to its knees I had to
  • Use a ball for the players physics shape so it wouldn't get stuck and friction wouldn't be such an issue.  
  • When the player is on the ground and not providing input, set the friction really high and use damping to slow the player down fast.  When they move ease up on the friction. 
  • When in the air, turn off friction and use a different damping or they'll get stuck on vertical walls.  
  • Use impulses and not forces to get the player moving.  
  • Turn off restitution or just use a tiny bit or you'll bounce all crazy.  
  • Make sure your polygon world objects are created with the vertices in counterclockwise fashion or your player will fall through them.
  • Make sure the player's foot sensor isn't too wide or they'll be able to wall jump - unless you want this behavior - super meat boy anyone?
That's it for now - you can play the game at and the source code is available for download via the website here. 

In other news I will post about the latest OGE/planet updates soon and I co-authored a book on OGRE

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spacescape for OSX, OGE gui and 2011 Games

Let's hit the "games I played in 2011" first - btw I'm stealing this idea from nathan @ I think every game developer should be required to do a post on games they played once a year! Brilliant.

Natural Selection 2 -

This has been my go-to game of late because it just keeps getting better and better with each new Beta release! If you haven't heard of this game, it is a remake of the original which pits alien forces against marines in a FPS  & Strategy Game mash-up.  Each team has a commander who plays the game from a top down perspective and deals with building, upgrading and collecting resources for the team.  The commander on the marine side is also charged with directing, healing and keeping bullets available for his teammates.  Each side accumulates resources through the game by building structures on resource nodes throughout the map.  Resources can be spent on upgrades, or in the aliens case, for evolving into more sinister life forms.

The only minor downside of this game is that it isn't OSX compatible yet so a bunch of my friends can't play it because they drink the Koolaid!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim -

This is obvious no? Great graphics, huge expanse with variable gameplay, and I would  be playing this a lot more if I weren't playing natural selection all the time.  I really like how this game looks and the openness of the gameplay, my only gripe is that every dungeon seems to be the same type of experience: kill bad guys, kill boss, come out alive.

Left 4 Dead 2 -

I started playing this with friends at work and had a blast!  I did enjoy mindlessly killing zombies while drinking a beer after a day of twisting my brain this way and that.  Great way to unwind and I keep it in my back pocket in case I don't feel like playing TF2.

Minecraft -

There are only two games that my wife and I both get and this is one of them.  The creativity in this is addictive and it is the only game I have like this.  I want to make a game as creative as this one some day - and I mean one that allows players to create and really use their imagination.  Love. It.  

Portal 2 -

Played this in single mode and then co-op mode and enjoyed every minute.  I simply couldn't stop playing it and it was so refreshing to have an action game with humor in it.  I think Valve has the corner on the market in pulling together all the gameplay details and story line together, plus I just love puzzle games.  Co-op mode was icing on the cake and I wish there were more longer campaigns.

Civilization V -

Bought this on sale and the graphics look great, but I don't have enough time to play it.  My wife loves Civilization but her computer can't run this version as well, so she is sticking with IV for now.  The gameplay changes don't bother me, and I actually kind of like them.

Team Fortress 2  -

Always a classic.  I play this mostly to unwind in a gore-free environment.  Going free-to-play was a good move for Valve - I bet most of their players purchased the game a decade ago anyways.

Honorable mentions...

Lord of the Rings Online

This was the only MMO that I tried and I did enjoy it but you really have to spend a lot of time to do stuff in these types of games.  The graphics are decent for an MMO and there is certainly a big community, especially after they went free-to-play, but when the Star Wars MMO came out, a lot of people went on hiatus to try that.  Most of my guild friends did.  I quit playing in 2011 and will probably not return until I have significantly more free time.

Tiny Wings 

My favorite casual game.  Simple, carefree and fun.

Sam & Max

I play through these with my wife on the TV sometimes when we're bored, the internet is down and the like.  These are really fun little games and are fun to play with another person sitting beside you.

Sonic 2 for iOS 

A classic from when I was a kid and played it on a Sega hand held.  I cheat now to get to the higher levels that I couldn't get to when I was younger.

Counter-Strike: Source 

I only downloaded this game and played it to see what was going on with the most popular online shooter game.  More of the same.  Graphics refresh was nice and I like the new maps, but I never really got into the original and stopped playing this one after a little while too.


These games are like references for me and full of ideas I want to have at hand in space games that I make.  The story lines are teerrrrrriiibbbllleee and the voice acting is equally bad, but the space graphics are pretty amazing.  Eve Online also has some great space graphics, but I couldn't stand the gameplay and the MMO aspect was not enough to get me to pay a monthly subscription fee.

So that's it for the games I played - I may have played other games, but those are the ones I remember.

OGE GUI Experiments

In the world of game development I've been doing more work with GUI's in OGE. I added a console and a simple menu system to explore the ins and outs of the MyGUI library.  I suspect it is causing some framerate issues, but I haven't been able to track those down yet.  I'll probably post a video of the GUI additions later.  I've also spent time trying to better implement input and physics for moving.  In fact most of the GUI system I have created so far has been to allow me to tweak input parameters to get it to feel right.  It still doesn't.

Spacescape on OSX

I actually managed to get a version of Spacescape to compile on OSX and run, but it has some major issues with masks and the whole build process was hell.  Since I've been doing a lot of XCode programming with work projects I think I'm going to dispense with the QT framework and trying making a native Cocoa Spacescape app for OSX and a native Win app for Windows - sorry Linux!

I have learned, through opensourcing the code for Spacescape and trying the donation thing, that besides it being a nice little feather in your hat, the only thing you get out of open sourcing and giving away a small project like Spacescape is a bunch of thank yous and a ton of support requests.  I intend to do a full write up with my thoughts on the whole business, but in short, I'm ready to attempt a different model.  I think the next iteration of Spacescape will be closed source and I'll use a pay-what-you want model with some minimum to cover fees, support and future development.