Sunday, August 25, 2013

Change of Gear

Hear ye, hear ye.

I'm moving for a time into a part-time game development mode.  This means I will be time-slicing my game dev activities into a working week of contract and freelance $$$ generating work.

Initially at least I'm planning to do quite a lot of revenue positive work to get some things kicked off again, and that will mean not much game dev output for a month or so.

Longer term it means I get to continue my game development, not go crazy with financial and other constraints, and I can work on EthEx2080 and other games in a sustainable way.

The good news for me personally is that this is a circuit-breaker that allows me to take the pressure off getting EthEx2080 out the door prematurely, and with the quality impacts that that entails - as I don't need it to start paying for itself so quickly - and it also lowers my stress to a manageable level.

Will I complete it?


I am absolutely committed to finishing EthEx2080, but the release date will be quite a bit later than December 2013.

When exactly?

I don't know.  Not a mystery or a problem - its just a case of having to find out what my rate of game dev output is once I settle in to this new part-time model.

Since I will be able to justify investing in some freelancers to do art and other content for the game, that will shorten the schedule; but obviously the lesser availability of my time to code and do the other work required will lengthen it.

I will do a new project plan once I work out how fast I'm getting through things, and that will allow me to extrapolate forwards.

Thanks to everyone who is following me, and has been encouraging me - I hope y'all keep doing so as it really helps when getting through the hard yards.

Keep posted, and happy hacking!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cocos2D & CocosBuilder Version Decoder

Just now I got a great question from a viewer on my YouTube channel about Cocos2D & CocosBuilder versioning.  I'm going to post my answer here as it might help a few folks.

CocosBuilder icon - see below for CocosBuilder project URL
CocosBuilder for the Win!


Versions in Cocos2D can be really confusing - and its no fault of the Cocos2D guys as the stack is a collection of Open Source projects and as such the different components do not have nicely matching version numbers.

For example, right now, you need version 3.0alpha of CocosBuilder to work with version 2.1 of Cocos2D.  You read that right - v3.0 of CCB goes with v2.1 of Cocos2D.  They are different projects and although the guys are working hard to make coordinated releases now, its still confusing.

If you're using the stack I do, which is CocosBuilder and Cocos2D-iPhone then it's easy to get hold of the wrong software packages and get weird errors, with undeclared variables.  Another issue you can find is that at run-time you get an error saying that the CCB data files are from an incompatible version of CocosBuilder.

See my previous post on upgrading versions for a video about this issue and some tips about navigating the versions of Cocos2D.  Executive summary: use the Cocos2D-iphone blog posts to find the latest "coordinated release".

As I write this, for example, the versions you probably want are:
These should work together just fine.  Obviously you'll want to use the latest "known good" combination (which might be later than the above depending on when you read this post!).

Release Quality

Another issue with versioning is that while Cocos2D v2.1 has been in "release candidate" for a little while, and we've seen version quality tags like v2.1rc1 or similar as a result: now v2.1 is out and we are back to a major dot-point release.  So nice work by Ric and Birkemose and the guys for getting that up to release quality.

But: we are still in alpha on CocosBuilder - if you're like me you want to work with more stable software.  However here we have to bite the bullet and work with 3.0alpha, at the time of writing, because that is the matching CCBReader for Cocos v2.1.  It is what it is and I guess Viktor Lidholt and other volunteers are working hard on CocosBuilder with what time they have spare to get it out of alpha.  I have not found any real issues so I suggest ploughing ahead with the 3.0alpha builds at this time.

Using the CocosBuilder Source

Note that the link to CocosBuilder above is to the "full source code", not to the "application".  Once you unzip the CocosBuilder full source code, drill down into the CocosBuilder directory with Finder to locate the CocosBuilder.xcodeproj file and double-click that to open it in XCode.  

Once open in XCode you can get your shiny new CocosBuilder binary by selecting the target "CocosBuilder" > "My Mac 64bit" from the Schemes drop-down (top-left in XCode, next to the run & stop buttons) and pressing "Run".  Once CocosBuilder is running, right-click on it's icon in the Dock and choose "Keep in Dock" so you can find it again easily.  

If you lose track of it, its stored under the "build" sub-directory of wherever you unzipped your sources.

Why go through all this if you can just download the binary?

I do it this way so I can be sure I have the matching sources.  If you're just building HTML/Javascript apps, and don't care about iPhone you don't need the sources and can just use the pre-built binary.  But to work with ObjC on the iPhone you need the sources.

Could you download the pre-built binary AND the sources?  Sure.  I don't have masses of room on the SSD on my laptop so I try to save a bit my just building out of the sources but you can use the pre-built binary if you like - just make sure you get the matching one for the sources!

I also like that under the CocosBuilder unzipped source tree you'll find a full documentation set; the Cocos Player application is there and also the full sources to the Example applications.

To get the correct CCBReader that will match your CocosBuilder, use the one from the Examples.  In the case of the above the folder you want is at this path:


Possible CocosBuilder v3.0alpha5 Issues

One final note, is that there seem to be a couple of new experimental features like the image previewer pane, on CocosBuilder v3.0alpha5, which seemed a bit clunky - hence I am actually currently using v3.0alpha4 which I find works just great for me.

I haven't reported those issues because I have just been too busy to spend time isolating them, but if you try v3.0alpha5 and see a problem take a screenshot and report it on the CocosBuilder GitHub.  You can probably revert back to 3.0alpha4 until the problem is fixed.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

More progress with Spine

I've been working on importing Erin into Spine so that she can do all the things I need her to do in the game, like reaching for things and climbing on things.

Update: adding in the front-quarter walk-cycle animation.  There are 5 different spritesheets: front, rear, side, front-quarter, and back-quarter.

The quarter and side ones are flipped in X to give a full 8-way facing character.

Here's a GIF export straight from Spine showing the walk cycle from the front.

I find the front walk cycle particularly hard because instead of just being able to use just limb rotations, you need to do a lot of image switching and scaling.  Scaling is used to make the rear-ward leg in the walk have that limb and foot appear to go back and up.

Notice also the feet:  as the leg extends towards you the bottom of the foot becomes visible.  This does not come for free.  It is done by swapping the foot image from a top down one, to one where the foot is viewed from below.  Its a different sprite altogether and I tell Spine to switch one sprite for the other at just the right moment so that it looks completely natural for the walk.

The image switching is also used for the eye-blink that happens as Erin's right foot hits the ground.

I am pretty impressed by Spine so far - it really is a pro bit of software.  Just wish it had been around a year ago.  :-)

This video published recently on my YouTube channel explains some of the thinking behind the move to Spine, and also compares the previous tech stack's deliverables with that of Spine.

I didn't show it in that video but here below is the Spine sprite sheet:

...amazingly compact, hey?  Especially when you consider that with this set of sprites I can use Spine to create any animation I want, for example Erin reaching down, scratching her head - that is to say an "idle animation" - or anything else I need.