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cookbook_review_heading

The Visual Studio 2013 Cookbook invites us on a tour around Visual Studio 2013. Using short and to the point recipes it provide a wide range of how-to’s on topics ranging from customizing your tabs and windows to getting up and running with git source control.

Authors

The book is written by Jeff Martin (@jeffemartin ) who writes technical articles on InfoQ  and Richard Banks (@rbanks54)  a Microsoft Visual Studio ALM MVP and Professional Scrum Trainer.

 

Target Audience

Target audience for this book is developers looking to get up to speed with the latest features and improvements of Visual Studio 2013 and devs using other IDE’s who want to know what Visual Studio 2013 has to offer.

 

Review

The first chapter give a decent introduction to the IDE and contain a lot of helpful tips & tricks on working more efficient.  This would only be suited to developers new to the IDE if it wasn’t for focus being on the new features that’s just been added in the 2013 version.  As it stands, this is a good read both for experienced developers that are still on older versions of the IDE and new developers who wants to start using it.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get started with Windows Store and/or web app development, the second and third chapters in this book will help you get there, they cover each step from acquiring a dev licence to validating your app.  Microsoft have stated that on Windows 8 JavaScript will be a first class citizen for creating Metro style apps, and that their tools will reflect this.  It’s therefore good to see a rundown of all the new features of web development using Visual Studio 2013.

Some of the other chapters are also quite interesting, who knew for example that you can write DGSL shaders using Visual Studio or that you can do Python and that Visual Studio 2013 comes with several options for creating installers?  There is a lot of good information to be found in this book, for both new and experienced developers.

Overall I like this book more than I expected to, and I feel that it delivers on it’s promise to introduce the new features of Visual Studio 2013.  I use Visual Studio 2012 almost every day and didn’t think I’d learn this much new.  It’s a good reminder to stay humble and always know that you have a lot to learn because the world of computer science moves fast. The only thing I found lacking was the chapter about asynchrony in .NET, it seems out of place in this book and doesn’t really handle the subject well in my opinion.  I also would have liked to see a few recipes on how to take web development into the Azure cloud using Visual Studio.

Visual Studio 2013 Cookbook

  • ISBN:  1782171967

  • Price:  £14.44

  • Released: March 2014

Visual Studio 2013 CookbookTarget audience for this book is developers looking to get up to speed with the latest features and improvements of Visual Studio 2013 and devs using other IDE’s who want to know what Visual Studio 2013 has to offer.

dev_dude

This month I blog about the last stretch of development on ‘Solitaire & Casino’ and early development of my upcoming iPad platformer app ‘Prof. Whackadoodle’.  With two iTunes approvals this month I am quite happy.

Solitaire & Casino adding social sharing

One of the initial goals of the app was to add Twitter and Facebook support in some shape or form.   There are a lot of plugins for Unity that provide this and I chose U3DXT, a pretty extensive plugin that offers a high level C#/JS API to a large part of the underlying iOS SDK API.  I started out making TW & FB icons and used the high level Twitter/Facebook classes, but I didn’t want a FB/TW icon if the player didn’t have FB/TW installed on the device, after a lot of trial and error I ended up using the native activity sheet that was introduced in iOS 6 apparently.  This makes users able to use a familiar single share icon which will in turn allow them to choose what social network they want of all installed on the device, so problem solved!

March 7, Solitaire & Casino 1.0 submitted

Friday , Put on my webmaster hat and updated my website carousel to have S&C on the front, and updated the app’s webpage.  Fixing trivial bugs that doesn’t really have any impact on the game, more to do with the back end and analytics. Adding if(Debug.isDebugBuild) to all debug statements in the AnalyticsManager, should use this all over. Uncommented most other debug statements. Building with the stripping option broke the analytics manager. Reverting to no stripping.  Finally submitted the app, feels very nice.

 

March 13, Solitaire & Casino 1.0 approved

“The following app has been approved and the app status has changed to Ready for Sale”   \o/

Available_on_the_App_Store_Badge_US-UK_135x40

So S&C got released and is currently freely available on the asset store.  It feels terrific to have it released, and I am quite happy with the result.  Of course it would be a lot better with professional graphics and sounds, but I am not there yet, I feel like I still have a long way to go as a game developer before the business side gets sorted.  As long as I am doing the whole lone wolf deal and until I learn to make money off my apps I’ll just have to settle for things I can buy cheaply.

Triple BonusPersonally I think this is one of the best solitaire apps out there, but I am of course super biased. :-)  The level progression and each level being unique and 4 different casinos with increasingly hard house rules, well I think it’s really great, it turned out a lot better than I had imagined beforehand.  Also it’s inspiring in a way to look at S&W and then compare that to this app and see how much I have improved.  Ok, done tooting my own horn now, sorry, just a bit excited at the moment.

In hindsight though, if I were to make this app all over, I’d split it up into 4 apps.  One app for each casino which has it’s own set of rules.  This is my only regret here, I might as well have made 4 apps instead of just the one.

 

March 18, Solitaire & Wisdom version 1.1 submitted

IMG_0056Added more particle effects (have learned so much in this area since I first released this app), sped up most of the card movement, updated fonts and got rid of a lot of bloat.  Split up the NGUI atlas into two pieces so I could have one with thumbnail images, and keep it compressed in memory.  This worked very well.  Replaced 3D score numbers with NGUI 2D numbers.  The 1.1 version got approved on the 23rd!  It’s interesting to see how much more I know now than when I made the 1.0 version, feels like I am making good progress, but it’s also humbling and makes me understand I still have a long way to go. I’m just getting started!

 

Prof. Whackadoodle prototyping

by_the_doorAs work on the the solitaire apps was finished I could now relax and work on my next projects.  It seems like my MO is starting with a small idea and then using the development phase as a creative process where the end result is nothing like the starting idea.  The engineer in me is not too happy about it, but the more artistic side of me feels like the creative process is important, it’s not like I’m just cloning existing games, I mean whatever would be the point of that?!  This process have already completely changed the direction of P.W.  It began as a simple idea of clearing a level by picking up all potions (although I used coins as placeholders) and avoiding monsters.  Now it’s become a much bigger level with doors/keys/levers and killing monsters using fireballs.  God knows where it ends up.  Very fun stuff to work on.

 

Prof. Whackadoodle’s input controller

dd_marchThe biggest challenge of this game is getting  the input controls right.  I think that’s what will make or break the game.  Players have to feel in control, the hero must respond well to swiping and tapping, because that’s what is expected on an iPad.  I’ve tried so many apps in search of a good control scheme but it seems all top platform games use virtual joysticks or one-tap input, in fact I see so many praises of input controls of virtual joysticks I think I will be forced to add it as an option, even though I think it’s epic fail to have virtual joystick on a touch device.  They are at least dead easy to make compared to a real touch based input system.

I am currently on version 5 of my touch based platform game input system, and I think I am getting close to something usable.  Still need more user feedback to see how it will resonate with normal non-technical persons.  There will be a special blog dedicated to the input controls later on, it’s just about written but I am considering adding a proper example and stuff.

 

 

Solitaire & Wisdom

  • Released:  v1.1

  • In Progress:  –

  • Update Status:  100% done

SnW_slider_buddah_bgThe iOS 7.1 release caused a lot of Unity3D games to have trouble and S&W was one of them so I had to immediately create a new version, a lot of fixes was already in place but I was holding out for some major features.  Now I was forced to ship the new version at once, and I guess that’s not a bad thing actually.

I still want to do a few changes to this app; add jokers, undo mechanism, update the card graphics, remove the 3D buff stars and replace them with 2D ones to mention a few things.  That will have to wait for now, as I am pretty pleased with having a new improved version out.

 

Solitaire & Casino

  • Released:  – v1.0

  • In Progress:  –

  • Release Status:  100% done

tutorialSubmitted & Approved! This app turned out pretty great, I think.  It took twice as long as expected, but it turned out twice as good as well, so I am very happy with the result.  The gameplay is in my humble opinion second to none with one-finger touch and drag&drop supported.  Maybe one day I will pay to have the graphics updated to a professional state, then it will be a truly great app.

I released the app as a free app, just to see how that will work out in term of downloads and user feedback.

 

 

Prof. Whackadoodle

  • Released:  –

  • In Progress:  prototyping

  • Prototype Status:  50% done

featureHave had a blast working on this project.  I am still just prototyping and trying to figure out which direction to take.  My original idea has already been thrown away and as it stands now I am leaning towards more of an action oriented platformer with puzzle elements instead of my original idea which was collect all potions/coins to clear a level.

The new control scheme is working out well so far, but I still need to get some random people to test and see how they do.

 

 

Shieldheart

  • Released:  –

  • In Progress:  prototyping

  • Prototype Status:  20% done

conceptual_block

Found no time to work on this title this month, it will have to wait until Prof. Whackadoodle is in a good place.

 

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This is my dev diary for January & February 2014 where I talk about my current projects and where I am headed on my quest to one day be a successful indie developer.  Shieldheart is one of my upcoming games, and I talk a bit about how the prototyping is going and the road ahead.

 

Shieldheart

This was something I started fiddling with around x-mas 2013, and ended up spending most of January on even though I was supposed to work on my casino card game.  This was of course a million times more fun to do. It’s hard to guesstimate when I will have time to work on this again.  Most likely I will steal some days here and there from my other projects, but full time work on this is not supposed to happen until I have finished Prof. Whackadoodle.  Long term plans.

fight_transparent

The basic idea is to make a side scrolling beat’em up melee game.  I’d like to try to make some cool combat action, but it’s gonna be hard to get it right.  I am aiming for 5 levels or something like that.  I want something that’s one man doable in a relatively short time frame.  Since there will be just 5 levels I can’t waste them on easy introductory stuff, I am thinking that I will go old school on this title, meaning no tutorials or hand-holding at all, it will be hard and players will die in horrible agony trying to figure out the basic controls.  Well those are just my initial thoughts at least, might change.

 

Shieldheart – Hero Controller

The hero animator controller.  Pretty standard stuff, and very easy to do.  The locomotion is a blend tree blending walk and run animations based on the speed parameter, but I am unsure if I will even need a walk animation, it feels a bit too slow to walk around.

hero_anim_ctrl

 

Shieldheart – Jump with animation curve

Added a jump animation, just because whenever I play games without jump it feels like a vital part is missing.  Not really sure what the hero character will jump over yet, but I imagine hostile projectiles.  There was one problem with the jump animation however; it was too short for my liking.  I wanted him to jump higher.  This was a good place to test out animation curves.  I added keyframes at the point where the feet left the ground and where they returned to the floor and made a curve called JumpHeight between those points.  This allowed the hero controller to pull out the JumpHeight data and apply it to the jump making smooth and gradually increase and decrease in the jump height.

hero_jump_curve

 

Shieldheart – Werewolf Controller

The werewolf is supposed to be a fierce adversary.  I have this idea in my head where I want it to run towards the player, leap into the air with claws raised and do a downward double claw attack, after this I want the werewolf to walk towards the player, turn in his direction if the player have moved, and do sideways claw attacks.  A pretty advanced combo attack in other words, but one that I felt was doable with the animations that came out of the box.  It’s just the matter of putting it all together and making it nice and smooth. Underneath is the animation controller I made for this to happen.

wolf_anim_ctrl

 

Shieldheart – Lightmapping

lightmapsI recently started experimenting with lightmapping, and it produces a kind of visual style that I really like so I will continue experimenting and testing it.  In this project I tried directional and single lightmaps and in my game I can’t really see any difference between them whatsoever, so I am going with single lightmaps as they are one fourth of the size (5-6MB).  If I have five levels that would be 30 MB of lightmaps, which I don’t really see as a problem as I am only concerned about supporting iPads at the moment. A full quality lightmap bake now takes over 9 minutes, and is the only thing that actually uses all my 12 CPU cores, finally getting value for the i7 chip.

Built a windows version and the game was running upside down. Kind of a strange effect. Looks like a bug in Unity where iOS portrait settings influence the windows build. Easily fixed by just making iOS settings landscape. The build is 50 MB, which is not too bad considering it contains full size textures and normal maps. 75% of the data is textures and I can probably turn on higher compression and reduce sizes, so that is encouraging. 

 

Solitaire & Casino

I was supposed to work a lot more on this app, but it was so much more interesting to work on Shieldheart and Whackadoodle! :-)  I just started with solitaire to learn Unity but it kinda snowballed I guess.  Anyways, the game has gotten a few make overs, it looks pretty ok to me now, but I know the graphics are not exactly great.

I think I will save the tech talk of making solitaire games to a separate blog, this is way too big already.  But here are some amusing pictures of the progress that’s been made;

 

 

 

Solitaire & Wisdom

  • Released:  v1.0

  • In Progress:  v1.1

  • Update Status:  75% done

SnW_slider_buddah_bgAfter releasing S&W I immediately started working on the followup app.  Fire and forget methodology is not good for app quality.  This app already feels very stale.  I’ve made some fixes, reduced footprint size by a lot, added a few features and done minor changes, but haven’t released the 1.1 version yet.

The main reason for sitting on the 1.1 release is wanting to update the bonus star system to a 2D NGUI version and remove the 3D system that’s in place, but that’s gonna take me a couple of days work, and I’d rather focus on my current project.

I feel like I’ve neglected this app, and will try to make up for it once S&C is done.

 

Solitaire & Casino

  • Released:  –

  • In Progress:  v1.0

  • Release Status:  95% done

tutorialThis is my current project.  I have been working on it since S&W was released this summer, and it’s taken me twice the time I expected. I will release it 2014 February, or so I hope.  Most likely I will cut features instead of pushing this further, as I feel very strongly that I need to stop working on card games for now and shift focus to action games.

This game feels a lot more solid than S&W, but I’m still not where I want to be in regards to production quality.  The graphics feel pretty homemade and I wish I had a budget that allowed for professional artists.  This is also a major reason why I want to move over to working on action games where I can get professional assets that are affordable.  It’s easier to make a good looking fancy 3D action game than a custom card game because there are tons of characters and environments by pro artists on the asset store.

 

 

Prof. Whackadoodle

  • Released:  –

  • In Progress:  prototyping

  • Prototype Status:  25% done

featureThis project was started Q4 2013, iirc, and is my next project once S&C is released. I wanted to start on this in February 2014, but March seems more likely now.

The target release is summer 2014.  Currently the game is a prototype, I will tear that down and create a second and more complete prototype that will contain 10 levels with baked light maps, and I want to see how big I can push the levels before it becomes too large.  I’d prefer to keep the release under 100 MB.

Can’t wait to start working on this project full time.

 

 

Shieldheart

  • Released:  –

  • In Progress:  prototyping

  • Prototype Status:  20% done

conceptual_block

The goal is to get this out before x-mas 2014, but I will be very surprised if that time schedule holds.  Also I must note that it feels a tad insane talking out a release date for a game that I haven’t even designed yet.  I have a rough idea of the game of course but not much more than that, and a lesson I have learned with S&C is that I must get absolutely all game features and details written down in a project plan before I start coding on it. S&C was a rough idea and ended up taking twice the time I wanted to use because I had to fill in the details as I went.