Trial and Epic Fail

Ventures of an indie game developer

Internetz radio

Just updated my homebrew internetz radio to use Spotify instead of murdered GrooveShark. I expected it to take half a day, which it did. For creating the Spotify client and interfacing it with my player (called AidBand) that is. Another 25 or so hours was spent on administrative shit as Windows partly crumbled while yielding the short but informative 0xc000007b message. Do you think this is another one of them "we don't know what's wrong"-type of messages?

So the brown little shit at the top became a whole pie. Anyway, now it works again, good to have some music in da house. If I get around to it, I'll share the updated AidBand source.

4D game

This guy is making a 4D game called Miegakure. There's some hype surrounding it, but it looks "only" to be a bunch of parallel 3D levels. Hm. I had hoped there would be some type of cool 4D-projected-to-3D-projected-to-screen but no such luck this time. Just as well as such a game probably wouldn't be playable anyway.

Is this my game?!

I just played a couple of levels of NSAgent, this was the first time I tried any of my games in months, and to my surprise it was pretty entertaining! I both liked the labels on the vehicles (which I assumed would be banned by Apple) and was humored by the "congratulations note" when having finished a level. Nice job Jonas!

On Putin

I recently learnt some new facts about Putin and realized I need to sum it up to try to understand how mad he actually is. Some of it is too good to be true; it's the stuff that over-the-top, ridiculous fiction is made of.

We're talking about a guy who killed rats for sports as a kid. Killing is probably his cup of tea, but let's leave that aside for a minute. Putin came into puberty late, and apparently that's one of the reasons he took up judo. Nobody wants to be bullied, nothing strange about that, but still today he seems stuck in some sort of teenage mentality where it's "bully or be bullied." Keep this in mind as many of his political choices seem to stem from his inferiority complex.

This spy-gone-president has seriously increased corruption in Russia, and Russia is now one of the 22% most corrupt countries in the World. That should be no big surprise as he himself arrested oligarchs, seized their assets and consequently became one of the richest men on the planet. This type of "hidden" corruption have ripple effects - and Putin has performed similar stunts many times in the past - but when combined with total openness about corruption it's devastating for society as a whole. And with "total openness" I mainly think about things like him extending the presidential term from four to six years, using a puppet placeholder president, building himself a humongous palace, the Party of crooks and thieves which serves no ideology but to support the administration, things like that. These things allow him to keep and extend his power; inferiority complex anyone?

While Putin's "hidden corruption" has heinous effects on its victims - such as bombings, murder (Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, former deputy prime minister Nemtsov and countless others), starvation and imprisonment - it's probably not as corrosive to the society at large. Interestingly Putin is not only into strengthening his power as part of the most superior inferiority complex you've ever heard of, but his pleonexia stretches into petty theft as well, such as when he stole the glass kalashnikov from the Guggenheim museum, or robbery if you will, such as when he (backed by three KGB agents) put Robert Kraft's super bowl ring in his pocket, stated "I can kill someone with this" and walked away. Now that's what I call a president!

Putin is a conservative Christian when it suits him. For instance he on the one hand blurted out that same-sex marriage equals Satan-worshipping; on the other hand he divorced his wife since they "hardly see each other." Like any good Christian he's had plenty of extramarital hangouts and is also reported to be a wife-beater of rank.

So how can this man possibly be popular? One of the reasons is that he's been able to make economy turn back to the haydays of communism. This should be contrasted with the fact that in the years spiraling down between 1991 and 1999, Russia was led by a drunken dimwit who handed out an an enormous country's enormous resources to oligarchs. Nonetheless he has done a good job in the one instance of GDP per capita:

On the other hand, if he hadn't, he probably wouldn't have been able to remain in power.

Another reason for his popularity is of course the massive PR campaign which, at least to the rest of us, has a disposition towards the farcical. Putin has been a diving archaeologist, firefighting pilot, nature conservationist in a motorized hang glider and tiger attack preventor to mention a few in the laughing stock. How this can boost popularity is beyond most of us, but I guess that when you control pretty much all of the media in the country it's doable.

Vladimir Putin's undeniable popularity is also visible in his vodka brand, his foods and his comic book.

So now this mentally ill murderer who won the popularity contest among the brainwashed and hence instigated conflict in Ukraine is now turning his eyes westwards. Sweden for one, have felt its share of aeroplanes and submarines, and slowly Sweden is shifting its stance back to higher defence budgets and a compulsory military service.

2024 would be Putin's last year as president (unless he gets another puppy), but somehow it feels unrealistic not to think that he would go out with a bang: one of the richest, mightiest, self-proclaimed bullies of the world with a huge inferiority complex just giving up everything he fought for. Not too likely, right?

Book startup

So far I've only done some exploration research for the book I'm about to write, but today work begins for real. I've decided on chapters long ago, but not sure it's a good split to cut across sub-disciplines in the field though, so I'll spend some time on this.

I'm going to use markdown, which is really a no-brainer. I'll do some exploration on the available editors, but I didn't like MarkdownPad 2 for the simple reason that it only allows raw editing. When writing a book I feel that wading through all that clutter can severely affect your flow. (If there is such a thing, which I suppose there is, it corresponds to the programmer Zone.)

The introduction chapter in a controversial non-fiction book is exceptionally important. I'll try to let my guard down as I've seen the mistake of "covering all bases" too often in the science literature. The researchers know they're going to get stomped with all the tonnage the sceptics can bring about, but it often leads to books that are boring to the mainstream and rest of the science community.

As a test of what works and what doesn't, I'll write a few introductions today as an exploratory test to avoid the refinement trap:

The title is probably equally important, I don't want people seing "yet another one of those hippie books which just boil down to self-loathing, drugs and spritual awakening." So it needs to be modern, snappy, young, cool and fresh.

I want to keep the tone of the book light and airy, but with hard facts. I'll reference the facts in the book, but in the paper version I'll make 'em interfere as little as possible with the rest of the text by using the page number and a per-page reference number. That way I can squeeze in thousands of references without getting something1234 that looks1235 like this1236. Even though very few readers will check the references, I'm confident they will add umph to the work.

I'll also try to keep the tone serious with the occasional gag here and there. Humor is an important aspect, but being from the ironic generation I feel it's important to not let it take over so I won't alienate the rest. In my experience humor works best when interspaced properly and kept low-key. I really love some of Jeff Atwood's pieces, so I'll steal some of his ideas and "novelize" them.

Lastly I'll just let it gush out. I'm going to write it down and then fix it later. What I usually do in everything I write, such as this blog, or e-mail to co-workers and friends, is that I edit, re-write, go back, move around sentences and parts thereof, re-read and so on and so forth in many iterations before I settle on something. I assume the first version of the book will come out awful when I just transliterate thoughts to text, but instead I'll come back later, catch the intent and do my exploration from there. I'll do so in the introduction chapter to evaluate. If it works well, I'll do the same throughout the rest of the book.

Mm-mm, this is gonna be fun!!!

Trabant IDE postmortem

For the first time in a month or so I picked Trabant up for some prototyping. I just wanted to check how easy it would be to improve on the terrain in the Terminal Velocity prototype. I've always liked nice, big terrains, and I've always thought it wouldn't be too hard to make a mock up. It's not nature nor Minecraft terrain generation, but adding two factors on the polynomial and using a real PRNG changed this:

into this:

But frankly. Who cares? Let's see... UP TO AND INCLUDING TEN PEOPLE!!! It's trending! See for yourselves:

If this continues much longer all the folks at Epic Games will be out of a job soon!

So I was right (no surprise there): nobody will "get it", a handful at most will find it useful (probably not) and nobody will ever use it. Trial and epic fail on the one hand, but on the other it's a fantastic tool and I really think I did a good job so far. This is the first time I've ever thought that of software I made. Bring it on, you say? No? Well, I'll do it anyway.

What went wrongWhat went right
Bound to be forgotten by history
Big players will never find this, and they might think that they won't need it. Which might be true as they generally don't do new types of gameplay. Small indie studios are too focused on the daily grunt to even care about prototyping. Single-person developers don't think they'll need it, and once they realize something is awry with their game, they will neither know what went wrong nor that prototyping would have helped. Thus I've made a product that is only going to be used by me.

The terrain improvement depicted above touched three lines. One of which was adding an import statement. If you don't get the significance of that, you've got a hole where the left part of the brain normally goes.

Looks booooooring
Not using assets is a key success factor. But it also makes every scene look like an angular blobfish out of Minecraft.

No assets = focus
Altogether ditching assets means you can prototype your game idea without even giving looks a second thought. Thus game mechanics gets 100% focus.

I wanted the IDE on the iOS device so that people (not me) could fiddle with the code on the bus. But the iOS IDE is bound to be misunderstood as the primary means of development. And as such it sucks.

Just a little bit of application code
The basics are done for most type of games in half an hour. It's all application code. The API and the IDE both take on stealthy roles, and there's no callbacks, naming, loading, initializing and most of all: no framework (god I hate those)!

The Pareto principle applies to playing-developing in Trabant too. So for some strange reason I keep playing my dull prototypes 80% of the time, leaving only 20% left for developing.

Best API
I've never seen an API even close to this. Srsly. It sometimes feel like divine intervention for me to come up with some of these things. Reusing pos() and pos(x) as a getter and a setter was genius! Using ASCII art as models is fucking brilliant! If I should be remembered for one thing in my software career, it's definitely this style of API and I couldn't be more proud, divine intervention or not.

I also must mention that rigid body simulation is always right there, without adding any code your graphical models will double as physical bodies unless you explicitly choose not to.

Sounds too good to be true
All software developer companies these days use big words for half-ass products. Trabant is a small but excellent product, but nobody could ever think that from looking at my web page. It just comes out as half-ass words for a shitty product.

No installation for the IDE
Unzip and run the .exe inside. Press F5 to run a prototype. That's all you need to know. But that might not be entirely positive, "sound too good to be true?"

Fully booked
Now that this product is done, and I've rested for a bit, I'm going to start tinkering with my next project. The next project is not a game, it's a book. A book on parapsychology. I'm really looking forward to researching and writing that!

3D and looks

In the blog post The tech arms race in AAA - and why I'm abandoning it a seasoned game developer makes the case that 3D is not always better. Thank you! I never realized how true that was until now, I've been blinded too. Hm... I have a lot to think about.

About the author

Min bilder
Gothenburg, Sweden