Some people deride video games as some juvenile experience where all you do is murder, or shoot, or something equally disturbing if done in real life. I can understand if they’ve only seen/played those games, but there are so many more titles out there that can be genuinely fun, interesting and engaging for other reasons. Here are a few of my favourite games.
This seems so obvious! It compiles to C so why can’t we throw our own stuff in there? Obviously you sacrifice the niceties of a higher level language like HaXe: Vague compiler errors and manual memory management abound, but it’s worth it sometimes.
For example: My first thought, since I’ve been implementing around it for some time, was to try and implement game saves on my TouchPad. I actually tried to use NME’s extension system to implement this a few weeks ago and got nowhere, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wanted to call into the webOS API to get a safe path using PDL_GetDataFilePath(), then write a string out to a file, and in a second function be able to read that string back.
I’ve been implementing a second thread of execution in my current game project for the last few days. I had tried to do this in my previous set of code, but either had constant crashes or half the game not working because that second thread wasn’t ticking over. At that time there was almost no instruction online as to how threads worked in NME, but that has changed recently thanks to the (always excellent) Joshua Granick, whose blog post, “Using Threads with NME“, lists out some basic scenarios for communication between threads. There’s also some useful nuggets of information in this forum thread.
In my new tower defence project I need to know when certain things are touching, or when object A is within range of object B, and other nonsenses like that. It seems perverse now, but the first time I had to implement collision code a few years ago I didn’t know why the computer couldn’t TELL there was a collision: The blue circle is halfway-inside the red square, surely that’s obvious? But implement I did, and it was horrible and rough, but for that project it didn’t matter at all.
In the early days of this project I implemented a collision system again with just two shape types: Rectangle and circle. It worked well enough, but the performance was awful — I had time to knock together a few arrays and an update loop, but more advanced stuff like knowing which objects could be safely ignored to speed the whole process up takes time to write and test. Having experience with it previously, I ran back to Box2D, dropping the source in to my project so I could begin prodding.
(Note: This article is to be fleshed out once I can install Maya again to access my saved models and screenshot them!)
For a little while just before work began on that XNA RTS game that was quickly cancelled, I was trying to learn 3D modelling in Maya. Me and my accomplice were both programmers, we recognized we were going to have problems with art right away, so I volunteered to try and learn some modelling. I’m not saying I became a virtuoso, but over the few months I was working through the included “Getting Started” tutorial I think I learnt a lot of the basics, and I did produce a number of simple in-game objects that were sadly never used. The largest object I attempted was the main character for a future game which was to be a platformer/puzzle game where you controlled a mouse through a house full of wacky obstacles to escape to freedom. Obviously the game never happened, but I do have a short video of the rigged mouse model with a simple animation.
In my final year of University I was lucky enough to take part in the robotics module – as I understand it, people starting the same course as me at the time I was leaving got to do robotics as standard in their first year! Not so with us, it was kept to the last and had limited places and all.
The course was half practical – building and programming a robot – and half theory – how to process data from sensors and control various aspects of the robot. The robots themselves were based on a small micro controller board with many simple I/O ports, built in to a shell made of Lego. I was one of a team of three, and initially we were all unsure of the programming side of it, but confident in our Lego abilities! This changed around pretty abruptly when it came to actually building the thing – turns out Lego can be a pain!
The objective of the robot was to collect coloured cans in a small square arena, and deposit them in the identically-coloured corner of the arena. Obviously, without hitting walls or getting stuck was preferable too.
In 2008/9 I visited a bar near where I lived called The Indie Lounge frequently. Friendly staff, live music and cheap drinks beckoned me in, but after a while I began work on an altogether more professional project with them – creating a website.
There was some interest in having an online presence which could be customized and styled, unlike the bars most prevalent means of communication at the time, Facebook. So I went and built a design I felt reflected the bar, grungy and dark. From there, things got a little strange…
Pong was a short project attempting to clean up my code base for Pinball, as well as rectify several nasty and hard-to-catch bugs who were only really present because Pinball was based directly on the first Haxe code I’d written which as you can guess, wasn’t totally solid. Eventually the need to rewrite a lot of my core code is what made me cease development on Pinball, although Pong did help resolve several issues. It was also built while Atari was running it’s Pong Indie Developer Challenge, so I wanted to experiment with some alternate game modes, hence the strange selection of gametypes on offer (multiball is still my favourite).
Pinball was my first real project with NME, and influenced everything I’m doing with it now. It was very much an experimental project to gain understanding of how it all worked, and in retrospect, I wrote a lot of very heavy, slow code that was unnecessary.