Category Archives: Uncategorized

Drifter Update: The Poster

I’m really excited to unveil something that I’ve wanted to have for Drifter for a while now. An official poster, done in a retro sci-fi novel cover/movie poster style. It’s been created by the incredibly talented illustrator Steve Courtney, and I can honestly say I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

I’m making a very (very) limited run of 18″x24″ archival-quality wide-format prints to take with me to GDC 2012 (in less than two weeks!). I’ll have to think of some clever way to distribute them, assuming anyone actually wants one ๐Ÿ˜‰ Chances are you won’t be able to get one of these, however, I have something special in store to announce sometime after GDC which should see them get a wider distribution.

Edit: Steve has blogged about the poster as well.

Anyway, without further ado, here you go:

How to Finish a Game

I posted a tweet yesterday which offered some advice concerning finishing games:

How to finish a game: get part way through a project, get an awesome idea for another game, ignore it and finish the one you’re working on.

It ended up getting retweeted quite a few times, so I guess it kind of struck a chord with people. With that in mind I got to thinking about other barriers to completing games I’ve encountered over the years and figured it would make a good blog post.

Having tried to start this whole game development thing once before in the late 90’s, I’ve done quite a few things that have derailed me from actually completing a game. When I started again in 2009, I knew I had to avoid all of these pitfalls in order to actually get a game out the door, so that was my biggest priority, actually finishing a game. I’ve finished 2 games since then, and I’m on my way to completing my 3rd, so hopefully this advice may prove useful to you as well.

Continue reading

Red Nova Beta Testing

Edit: Just wanted to say thank you for such an amazing response and beta testing is now nearing completion! Thanks for your interest, and hopefully Red Nova will be out soon!

I have a few more device slots that I’m able to set aside for beta testing of Red Nova, so I’m wondering if there’s anyone else out there who wants to help me make the game as awesome as I possibly can.

I can’t offer much in compensation right now except for a “Beta Tester” credit in the credits for the game and the satisfaction that you’ll gain in knowing you helped me make sure Red Nova doesn’t cause people’s iPhones to explode violently when adjusting the in-game volume (I promise I’ll try really hard not to explode your iPhone, violently or otherwise, during the beta). Also, you get to be among the first people ever to play Red Nova which I think, despite my obvious bias, is pretty damn cool.

Anyway, that being said what I’m looking for is both feedback on the game itself as well as help in finding any bugs in the code.

If you’re interested you can email me at colin[at]celsiusgs.com (after replacing the [at] with the appropriate symbol :)) or @reply me on Twitter with whatever devices you have and when I’m done compiling the list of potential beta testers I’ll get back to you if I’m able to add you to the beta or not!

As for the beta itself, I’m planning on making a pre-beta build available sometime this week for those that are interested in trying out the gameplay. I’m still in the polishing stage, so there are some rough edges and things that are just plain missing. I’m pretty excited though and I really want to share the game with others to see if they feel the same way.

The plan after that is to seed the first full beta in a week or two, once everyone has had a chance to play around with the pre-beta build and I’ve had a chance to take a grinding wheel to the rest of the code ๐Ÿ˜‰

Retina Display, Open GL, and You!

Over the long weekend, I took some time to code support for the iPad and iPhone 4’s Retina Display into Red Nova. It was a fairly painless process, after Paul Pridham pointed me in the right direction.

If you are using OpenGL for your app on the iPhone and are using an Orthographic projection for your 2D bits, you shouldn’t have to change much of your code to get it “Retina Ready”.

Setting the View Scale Factor

First, your Open GL View class if you add the following in your init code it will tell the OS that you want to display your graphics at 960×640:

if([[UIScreen mainScreen] respondsToSelector: NSSelectorFromString(@"scale")])
{
	if([self respondsToSelector: NSSelectorFromString(@"contentScaleFactor")])
	{
		self.contentScaleFactor = [[UIScreen mainScreen] scale];
	}
}

If you run your app at this point you should see the content running in the corner of the screen because your GL viewport is still running at 480×320. So that brings us to…

Setting up the Open GL Viewport

Note: If you haven’t already you may want to make a wrapper function that returns the current device scale factor. I did and it’s very useful in code that needs to properly deal with displaying your graphics at the right size.

Anyway, this is the next and pretty much final step.

Find your call to glViewport, and modify it thusly:

glViewport(0,0,usefulGetScreenWidthHelper()*usefulGetScreenScaleHelper(),
	usefulGetScreenHeightHelper()*usefulGetScreenScaleHelper());

Obviously change the width and the height to correspond to your app’s layout.

If the rest of your code sets up your projections (2D and 3D) based on 480×320, when you compile and run your app you should get glorious retina display goodness! You will of course have to adjust your 2D bitmapped assets (fonts and images) to reflect the higher resolution of the display, but the end result is that your app thinks in 480×320 (this is how Apple manages it with Cocoa Touch, as far as I can tell, amusingly enough) but displays at 960×640!

He Who Hesitates is Lost

This post doesn’t have much to do with software development, but I’d like to talk a little bit about motivation and start-ups. I’m sure most can relate (I mean about the motivation part), but it’s definitely something I’ve struggled with over the years.

To begin at the beginning, here’s a great quote relating to motivation and the origin of the title of this post:

“He who hesitates is lost. Swift and resolute action leads to success; self-doubt is a prelude to disaster.” -โ€˜Catoโ€™ (1713) by English essayist and poet Joseph Addison.

This is something my father used to say (well, more succinctly the first sentence), but I never really got to know him very well before he passed away. That being said, that saying has stuck with me throughout my life, and as I get older the more and more I’ve come to appreciate it. Sometimes (read: a lot of the time) I have not heeded its warning, but I really think that it’s an essential attitude to have in life in general, and especially when trying to follow your own path.

One of the biggest problems I’ve faced so far has been the so called “tyranny of choice” because all growing up I wanted to be a scientist, and that focus narrowed to Physics as I approached the end of my High School years. In the meantime I had also picked up a keen interest in computers and programming at an early age.

So I was faced with a decision. “What should I focus on?” I asked myself.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an answer.

Part of me wanted to start a company making video games, but I felt that I probably wasn’t ready for that because most of my self-started projects would end up being too ambitious or I’d become distracted and start some other pie-in-the-sky project instead of trying to finish what I had started. Another part of me wanted to do the noble thing and pursue a career in Physics, to try and unravel the secrets of the universe. So, as a bit of a compromise, I told myself that I’d get a joint degree in Physics and Computer Science and delay making a decision until after I graduated.

So I graduated.

I was still in the same ridiculous situation.

I was too afraid to make a choice, because, “Oh god, what if I make the wrong choice?!” In retrospect, this was stupid, but stupid things happen. So I decided to get a job doing corporate software development so I could pull in some money while I sat on my hands waiting for an epiphany, or a sign, or maybe someone to come and hit me in the head with a shovel for being so ridiculous.

Another seven years or so passed of me coasting along, unmotivated to make a decision and take charge of my life. Part way through I even toyed with the idea of becoming a professional photographer, which did not help me make that decision in the least. Mind you, I would never count these years spent in university and in the corporate world as “wasted” as I did learn an awful lot about myself, computers and the world in general. That being said, I was in a rut, and sick and tired of not trying to do something about it.

So, as you may have noticed, I decided to try my hand at this video game thing. It may not be as “noble” as a career in physics, but if there’s something other than science that I’m truly passionate about, it’s computers and video games.

While many people might think it’s scary to try and start your own business, I think that at least for me, I would rather at least try and live with the potential of failure than end up living a life filled with regrets. Would you rather look back on your life and say “What if I had tried to do something exciting with my life instead of taking the easy route?” Sure I will have to look back and say “What if I had pursued a career in physics and/or academia?” but you can’t do everything at once, and I am genuinely happy and excited to be following this seemingly crazy path in life.

So, if you’re hesitating on doing something daring and exciting that you know in your heart you can do, don’t hesitate too long or you may live to regret it.

If you’re in a similar situation to me, I’d highly recommend reading the many essays by serial tech entrepreneur Paul Graham. One thing I definitely took away from his writing, that relates to motivation and doing your own thing, is the proposition:

“Economically, you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. Instead of working at a low intensity for forty years, you work as hard as you possibly can for four. This pays especially well in technology, where you earn a premium for working fast.”

I really like the idea of that, and he also talks a lot about doing what you love in the context of start-ups and working hard to make a comfortable living doing the things you love.

Mind you I’m not saying that my primary motivation in this is to get rich quick or some other malarky like that. What I’m saying is, if you can do something that you love, and turn that thing you love into a way to support yourself, then why not try and do that?

Another thing Paul talks about is not giving up, and he could not be any closer to the truth of the matter. Realizing of course that money is always an issue with these sorts of things, as long as you don’t give up, eventually you’ll succeed as long as you have good ideas and a passion for what you’re doing.

That being said, one thing that usually keeps me from doing anything too risky is that I’m a fairly shy person, though I do like to think of myself as more daring and brash than I probably am usually. However being the head of a start-up is not a place for shy people, so I am actually pushing myself outside my comfort zone on a daily basis. As odd as it sounds, I think I may be a closet extrovert. Would that be ironic? All I know is I do get a bit of a kick out of pushing my boundaries, even by a little bit, every day.

TL;DR

So, if this meandering beast of a blog post could be summed up, I think ultimately I’d like to say that you should never give up on your dreams and passions, turning your dreams and passions into your job might be scary but in the end you’ll be a better person for it, don’t be afraid to push your boundaries because you might actually enjoy it, and in the immortal words of a great physicist, trickster, raconteur and personal hero of mine, Richard Feynman:

“What do you care what other people think?”

Don’t let the fear of failure, judgment, or “what if?” smother your potential.

Don’t be lost.

Genesis

The Genesis Centre is in the Inco Innovation Building

The Genesis Centre

I just wanted to make a quick post saying that I am very pleased (and excited!) to announce that Celsius Game Studios is the latest client of The Genesis Centre. The centre is a technology start-up incubator run by Memorial University and seems to be a pretty awesome place to get my bearings as I try to develop and grow CGS as a company.

Also Chromodyne HD had a nice positive review from Simple Reviews last month, which is pretty cool! Thanks Parth!

In the meantime, my next mini-project is coming along nicely. I don’t want to say too much at this point as it’s very prototype-y but let’s just say it will involve shooting hot plasma death at evil aliens and blowing them the hell up. Oh yes.

I may have some screenshots by the weekend depending on how quickly I can finish these last few art assets to make it sexy and awesome.

Chromodyne Lite

Chromodyne Lite Icon

In an effort to try and increase the visibility of Chromodyne, I’ve done gone and created a Lite version! As it is FREE, I ask you kindly to check it out, as maybe you’ll like what you see ๐Ÿ™‚

You can get Chromodyne Lite on the App Store here: itms://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chromodyne-lite/id369298294?mt=8

The Chromodyne Lite Press Release Follows:

Celsius Game Studios is proud to present Chromodyne Lite, the free version of its unique and exciting match-3 puzzle game, Chromodyne! Chromodyne Lite is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, on the Apple App Store.

Chromodyne Lite features a brand new 5 chapter story introducing the player to the Chromodyne as they work their way through the Chromodynamic Academy’s accredited Accelerated Chromodyne Operator’s Course. Through this program, you too can learn the skills necessary to save the world from impending doom from outer space!

“Course?” You say.

“That sounds like it might be expensiveโ€ฆ” You say.

You would say that, wouldn’t you?

Well, you might expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars and rack up years of crushing student debt at some “university” to learn how to save the world. Not so at the Chromodynamic Academy. No, you too can learn all this today for the low, low price of FREE!

Not only do you get this valuable training, but you’ll also find that Chromodyne Lite offers fun and challenging 3D match-3 gameplay, colourful and striking visual effects, and an awesome soundtrack by Kevin MacLeod.

If you’re saying: “Well, I can’t possibly go wrong with that! Plus I can’t argue with freeโ€ฆ Especially when you put it in all caps like that!” I’d suggest you follow this link and give it a try: itms://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chromodyne-lite/id369298294?mt=8

Everyone Loves a Good Statistic or Two

Thanks again to David Frampton of Majic Jungle Software for providing a beta version of MajicRank with iPad chart support!

Day two has come and gone, and Chromodyne HD poked back into the (currently meaningless) category charts again during the day on Sunday. Thank you, people who bought my game, your appreciation did not go un-noticed.

As mentioned in my last post the reason these chart listings are meaningless is because there’s no way to view the Top 100 in any category for iPad apps in iTunes, and from hearsay at least, you can only view into the Top 50 on the iPad itself. Disclosure: I don’t own an iPad so I’m just going from what I heard from other people who do. Please correct me if I’m wrong ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s look at a graph shall we:

#75 in Arcade?! Exciting but meaningless.

This activity was caused by a grand total of 2 sales on Sunday. I mean, I increased my sales by 100% over Saturday, which is impressive (yay percentages!), however this still brings home a few… troubling conclusions:

1) Currently iPad developers can’t even rely on the Top 100 lists in categories to help them generate sales. This is bad for people with small advertising budgets.

2) There are quite a few games not generating any sales at all on the iPad side of the App Store currently. This is unfortunate ๐Ÿ™

If people are still interested I’ll make the occasional post on this, but Chromodyne HD has since last night dropped unceremoniously out of the charts so I’m not sure I’ll actually be generating any useful statistics… certainly no one wants to see an empty line graph ๐Ÿ™‚

In the meantime, my current plan is to keep supporting Chromodyne/HD and to forge ahead into other new projects with the hopes of making a living doing what I love while bringing awesome games into the world. Also, at least until things stabilize a bit, I think my primary target will still continue be the iPhone/iPod Touch but I will still continue to write my games with the intent of being portable to as many platforms as possible, including of course the iPad.

Until next time!

Too Good to be True (So Far)

So yesterday I started using a beta version of MajicRank by the most excellent David Frampton of Majic Jungle Software. MajicRank is a tool that scours the App Store for your apps and checks to see if they’re in the Top 100 in any of the categories on the App Store. It’s pretty awesome.

Yesterday being the launch of the iPad in the US, and I having Chromodyne HD available along with the launch of said iPad.

However, whereas the iPad launch was hugely successful, Chromodyne HD? Not so much.

Now from my frantic Twittering, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell… as for most of yesterday evening Chromodyne broke into the Top 100 in Arcade and Puzzle for iPad games. That felt great let me tell you!

Great right up until I got the daily sales summary this morning, that is! Apparently that slight surfacing into the top 100 amounted to 1 sale. Kinda sucks, hey?

I suspect the reason I’m ranking so high in those categories is that there aren’t that many games in those categories (yet) and that Chromodyne is near the bottom of the pile, but the bottom of the pile is so close to the 100 point that a single sale will do something like this. This is quite possibly also why Apple is hiding category views for iPad apps in iTunes and only showing the Top 50 on the device itself.

What sucks for me, with my currently lousy non-existent advertising budget and lack of coverage due to bigger titles getting the spotlight yesterday, is that I can’t actually take advantage of that placement in those categories. Nobody can actually see that my cool little game is in the Top 100!

I'm at the top, of the bottom!This is what excitement looks like.

It’s still early days yet and my porting of Chromodyne to the iPad was a fun experience, which effectively didn’t cost me anything except a few days of time. So I’m not upset or anything, and I wasn’t expecting miracles. There are a few pending reviews of Chromodyne so I hope they come out eventually, and that should help ๐Ÿ™‚

In the meantime, I do want to thank everyone who shared my (misplaced) excitement last night, at least I can say that Chromodyne made it into a Top 100 list!

Thoughts on the iPad

Well, Apple finally released their oft-speculated-upon tablet, the iPad, today. The response I’ve been seeing across the interwebs has ranged from comments reminding me of the hubris inducing pessimism surrounding the launch of the iPod, to the completely ridiculous sort of grandstanding that comes about whenever the press catches hold of something that’s “going to change the world!”; like, how it’s going to kill the mouse and keyboard or something. That’s like saying the computer will kill paper and pens, or the Segway will kill walking, or… ingesting pop rocks and soda killed Mikey. See what I’m saying?

What about me? Small game designer/developer guy you probably haven’t even heard of until now? I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and the iPad is balancing on a knife-edge between success and failure.

Stick with me here.

I think where the iPad’s potential lies is as a beefed up PDA/planner with the capabilities of an eBook reader and some of the power of a laptop, like editing documents and viewing large videos, while still being in a small form factor with an amazing battery life.

The problem with the iPad, at least as far as I can tell, is that Apple has actually created the iPad’s worst competitor. By placing the iPad as a device in between PDAs and laptops, Apple believes that they are competing with inexpensive netbooks, but in reality, I think that the iPad’s biggest barrier for growth will be it’s older, yet shorter brother, the iPhone!

Look at it this way: the iPad instead of being a small laptop without a physical keyboard, ports, etc., is more like a large iPod Touch or iPhone without the phone and camera parts. People are going to look at their iPhone and think “why would I want an iPad? My iPhone does practically everything I need it to do and more, and it’s more portable to boot.” It’s an even worse value proposition if these people have laptops already. The problem is that by making the iPad behave more like an iPhone and less like a laptop, many people, I think at least, will view this as an iPad vs. iPhone question rather than an iPad vs. netbook or laptop question.

Don’t take this as me completely writing off the iPad. I don’t think it’s going to be a Segway, but I’m not really sure if it will end up being an iPhone or iPod. I do think it will find it’s place in the market, but I think that iPhone OS and the hardware may need to go through a few revisions before it can really get a proper foothold.

I suppose I should talk about gaming and the iPad while I have you here, seeing as that’s kinda my thing.

First off, I think that we’re probably going to see a divide between gaming on the iPad and the iPhone/iPod Touch. Nothing huge but because of the iPhone’s phenomenal success, I think that there will still be a massive demand for small form-factor games that specifically target the iPhone. On the other side of that coin I think that the iPad, by being larger with more power and having a higher resolution will allow more freedom of expression for game developers. But this is good! More choice is never a bad thing when it becomes trivially easy to port your software between these devices, you just have to make sure you design your software with an eye towards running on many devices (this was a good idea before the iPad, in case you didn’t get that memo).

Earlier today I read an article suggesting that the iPad was going to be end of the sort of small developer that found success on the iPhone because it allowed for small teams to produce small games but reach a large audience. I definitely don’t see that as an lesson to take away from the iPad. I do agree 100% that developing games on the iPad, specifically to take advantage of the iPad hardware, will be more time and money intense, however it’s not like the iPad is going to kill the iPhone. Hell, I’d even go so far as make the rash and wildly assumptive statement that most small iPhone devs can blissfully ignore the existence of the iPad and still be able to make a comfortable living selling their wares to iPhone owners (as they are legion).

My personal goal is to see Celsius Game Studios games on the PS3 and 360, so I’m not dreading the iPad. Quite the contrary, I view it as yet another exciting platform with a potential audience for my games.

Also, much like “Wii” humanity will somehow come to terms with “iPad.” You can quote me on that.