24. December 2008 11:15 by nGFX
Merry Christmas everyone!

At this time of year we'd just like to thank you, all our beautiful constant readers and our sexy newer visitors, for helping make this blog what it is. Without you we'd just be talking to ourselves, and I'm no doctor, but that's got to be a bit mental hasn't it ?

So thanks a lot for keeping us sane, it means a lot to us.

Turkey, tv, unwanted gifts, eating until your eyes bleed, visiting relatives when you just want to play on the xbox, something about the little baby Jesus, a big fat man breaking into your house in the middle of the night, paranoia that you can smell burning every time you turn the tree lights on, getting a card from someone at the 11th hour when there's just no way you can get one back to them on time, wrapping presents far too late and making a really bad job of it, having to spend Christmas with relatives and their weird not the way your family does it rules ( "We don't open the presents til after lunch" ), it's just all good isn't it.

Have a great one,

Squize & nGFX

(ps. edited by nGFX):
So Squize was done with posting a good deal earlier than me, so instead of having a second post I decided to add to this one...

If you're not quite so much into Christmas (like me, although, only the stress before it spoils it for me as early as November) here's my usual:

Happy Hogswatchday!

"ER...HO. HO. HO."
-- Death makes a career move (Terry Pratchett, Hogfather)



15. December 2008 22:02 by nGFX
So I guess a month or so has passed without a word from me, which either means I haven't got something to say or lost interest or something else.

Well, a bit of everything. This year has been a real let down in terms of games, Squize outnumbered me in terms of finished games by far, so what have I done at all?

First the official conversion I've been doing for gimme 5 still isn't really gold (still waiting for the level swapping stuff), which was or still is quite a letdown and has killed a good deal of the motivation I had put into a game of my own otherwise.

Then there were quite a lot flash based applications (not the stuff to write about here) and some .NET based backend stuff.

Oh and I've been doing a heavy "quick fix" session for Ubisoft (yes, that Ubisoft), which ment 3 weeks of 16h days to fix 3 flash games and write a menu in 3 languages (regular readers might find my post related to this) ... I still have to rewrite the third one, but that's another story.
We haven't been involved in the design, but it was quite a lesson for me to make them work at all (read: I got some half fininshed games and a very tight deadline).
If you're eager to take a look ... do it here: Handigo The Game - Ubisoft (first one on the right).

After all that I decided to have a quite long holiday now and start on a game that has been floating around my mind in varoius designs for quite a while now (I did mention that "unfinished" games like my CC port are big motivation killers?).

I doubt I'll do daily updates like Squize, so for now you just get the name (and static screenie of the menu):

(Oh, and did you notice the "Medals"? While writing on Calisto Eclipse I'm setting up something nice for us all ... more to come later :) )

Back to coding now (finally), nGFX



6. November 2008 17:24 by nGFX

Quite a descriptive title for this post for a change.


In this section of 651 we're running two effects, a bog standard RGB plasma effect and then a "Jelly vector" effect.

To create a plasma you're going to have to suck up to Math.sin, he's your daddy for this.

Firstly we pre-calc a colour table, eg.

        public function ColourTable(){
            colourTable=new Array();
            var cnt:Number=-1;
            var col:Number;
            var r:int;
            var g:int;
            var b:int;
            var offset:Number=3.1415;

//To avoid /4 for each pixel every frame, we just make the colour table 4 times as big
                r = 128 + 128 * Math.sin(offset * cnt / 32);
                g = 128 + 128 * Math.sin(offset * cnt / 64);
                b = 128 + 128 * Math.sin(offset * cnt / 128);
                col=(r << 16)+(g << 8)+b;

Here we're just creating what is in effect a gradient, so we have an array which smoothly goes from one colour to the last one. This will create an interesting effect, and if you're going for something colourful and eye-catching as a baddie in a platformer or a fun screensaver for a partypoker website, then it's ideal. When it comes to the look-up when we're plotting we'd need to divide the value by 4, so to avoid this we make the colour table 4 times larger than is really needed ( Often it's a balance between memory usage vs speed. An easy way to think of it is with loops. If your game didn't have any loops and you just copy / pasted the same thing over and over it would run quicker, but take a lot more memory, and be pretty insane ).

Right the colour table is done, next up we create instances of our Pixel class,

            activePixelsStorage=new Array();
            var pixelObj:Pixels;
            var j:int=-1;
            var k:int;
                    pixelObj=new Pixels(new Point(j,k),colourTable);

It's just like doing a tile based engine, each instance of our Pixel class is passed an x/y position so our plasma is 120 pixels wide by 120 high. That's pretty tiny so we double the scale of the sprite in which we're plotting and add a blur filter just to smooth it out. It's a lot less expensive than plotting a 240x240 plasma.

On to the actual Pixel class:

    public class Pixels{
// Properties
        private var xPos:int;
        private var yPos:int;

        private var cX:Number;
        private var cY:Number;
        private var jointDist:Number;
        private var offset:int;

        private var cT:Array;
        public function Pixels(pos:Point,colourTableArg:Array):void{
            var xDist:int=120-cX;            //Distance from the bottom
            var yDist:int=120-cY;

            var distance:Number=Math.round((Math.sqrt((xDist*xDist)+(yDist*yDist))/2));
            var distX:Number=256 * Math.sin(distance/8);
            var distY:Number=256 * Math.cos(distance/8);

        public function toString():String {
            return "Pixels";

        public function pixelmainloop(x:Number,y:Number,plotbm:BitmapData):void{
            offset = (Math.cos((xPos+x)*0.0525) + Math.sin((yPos+y)*0.0255))*256 + jointDist;

                offset=(offset ^ -1) + 1;

I'm not going to go into too much detail with this, as it'll take ages to be honest. The most interesting part is the pixelmainloop, where we pass in the x/y ( As well as the bitmapData we're plotting too, more on that soon ), and from those coords we create an offset into the colour table. To create the smooth curves that makes a plasma look so sexy we use some lovely sin and cos ( That's the bit I'm skipping explaining in any real detail. It takes quite a bit of tweaking to get something looking how you like and different values really give different results, for example:

            offset = (Math.cos((xPos+x)*0.0525) + Math.sin((yPos+y)*0.0255))*64 + jointDist;

That's what's used in the credits plasma / kaleidoscope effect, which uses exactly the same colour table values but looks totally different ).

All that's left for the plasma part is the mainloop that we run on the enterFrame.

            var radian:Number = sinOffset/60;
            paletteShiftX = 128-Math.sin(radian)*255;
            paletteShiftY = 128-Math.cos(radian)*255;


            var pixelObj:Pixels;
            for each(pixelObj in activePixelsStorage){


            } else {


Nothing too tricky here. We just increase the position ( Offset ) into the colour table every frame, and then use for...each ( Much quicker ) to loop through all our Pixel instances calling the pixelmainloop and passing the args.
The part that may be of interest is the plotbm var. To increase speed slightly we double buffer the plasma bitmap, so when one bitmapData is being displayed we're plotting to the other one which is no longer being shown.
To try and explain that a little better, we have two bitmapData objects, bm1 and bm2. bmData1 is our bitmap ( I find the difference between the two confusing as hell in as3. It makes total sense, it just doesn't seem to stay in my brain very well ) which is attached to the our holder sprite for the plasma ( The one we doubled in size and added a blur to as mentioned earlier ).
So lets say we have something like this:
And that's what you see on screen. If you can see bm1 that means we're plotting to bm2, and visa versa.

This is why we pass the currently hidden bitmapData to each instance of the Pixel class every frame rather than just passing one value in during it's construction.

That's plasmas for you. I've only really given the core concept as hopefully a spring board for your own experiments.

The Jelly cube is going to be much more straight forward, because someone else wrote the clever bit. After x amount of time we run a really quick white up over the whole stage, and that's where we remove the plasma all together and replace it with a papervision cube.

Ultra simple, we just rotate him and scale him. The twister code came from the excellent zupko who kindly open sourced it. Now we've got a twisty cube, what about the texture ?

This is another big fat cheat. At best you can get a plasma running the size we have at around 40fps, so there's no way we could do it realtime and run the cube. One idea I had early on was to use draw() on every frame of the plasma and store those away, then update the texture every frame on the cube using those stored away bitmaps.
I didn't go this route as I was concerned about the amount of memory it would use and I was concerned that using draw() may have had a negative performance hit when actually running the plasma ( I'm possibly paranoid about that and it would more than likely be fine, but it felt like quite a bit of data to be copying every frame when you want everything running as quickly as possible ).

The solution ? flv baby. Unless it's youTube the flv format seems to be badly over looked when it can be used for all types of tricks ( I did quite a bit of video work in games at preloaded long before flv came out so I've learnt what the advantages of using video are early on ).
I just ran the plasma for a little while grabbing the frames, cropped them up, created a copy running backwards and then joined the two together, so runs as A > B > A.
All that was left then was to created a flv texture for each side of the cube, and papervision along with Flash did everything for me.

The only thing left to cover off is the black outline on the cube. Again ultra simple, it's just a glow filter. Set it to black, turn up the strength, turn down the blurring and you've got a sexy outline.

Phew. I think this is going to be last in-depth-ish tut on the 651 effects. Not only does it takes ages, but I think the rest of the effects not touched on so far can be summarised in one post.


4. November 2008 15:33 by nGFX

So what's wrong with this code:

if (this._iDrawLayer & ChipsGame.VIEW_LAYER_A == ChipsGame.VIEW_LAYER_A) {
// draw contents of layer A ...

nothing, really. Nonetheless it's not working in CS3 (yet again, prove me wrong).

Basically it's just the unoptimized check if a certain bit is set or not. Let's do some traces:

trace ("with ():", ((this._iDrawLayer & ChipsGame.VIEW_LAYER_A) == ChipsGame.VIEW_LAYER_A))
trace ("without ():", (this._iDrawLayer & ChipsGame.VIEW_LAYER_A == ChipsGame.VIEW_LAYER_A))
trace ("values :", this._iDrawLayer & ChipsGame.VIEW_LAYER_A , ChipsGame.VIEW_LAYER_A)

The result is this:

with (): true
without (): 1
values: 1 1

Interesting, isn't it?
It seems like the compiler chains the & and the == for some reason that escapes me...

So if you get something undesiered with bitwise operators ... use ( and ) around it.


29. October 2008 17:46 by nGFX

Back again!

After a good deal of time I finally have something to post about - or let's face it moan about.

As the headling slightly might suggest I'm dealing with sound today.
I think that sound handling in AS3 is a nightmare compared to the ease of it in AS1/2 and I'm not the only one asking WTF?

So in order to play your sound you have to instanciate it, if it's exported CS3 kindly creates a class for you so you can easily use it ... (loading it from an external source is another story)

This is what the CS3 help gives us for embeded sounds ("working with embeded sounds"):

var drum:DrumSound = new DrumSound();
var channel:SoundChannel = drum.play();

My first question was: what do I need the SoundChannel for if I just want to play the sound?

Well, the rocket scientists at Adobe thought that it would be a good idea to add a play() command to the Sound, but not a stop(), so in order to stop our sound playing we *need* the SoundChannel - so we better store it for later use.

Anyway, to make my life easier I converted my SoundUtil class from AS2, basically it deals with the sounds so I don't have to think about it, it has a few usefull commands like playSFX (plays a sound effect, once), playMusic (which allows fading), crossfade ...
I usually used attached sounds (or from an external swf, but the SoundUtil dealt with it ...)
So in order to play music for the menu I'd just do:

SoundUtil.getInstance().playMusic("musicName", 2); // 2 would do a 2 sec. fade in

The AS3 version should work the same, although it uses static functions which then call the singleton's method.

Oh wait. We need to have a class to start the embeded sound ...

To get over that I wrote the add method, which basically takes the name of the sound (or the classname) and then does it's magic.

        public function add (strSound:String, bIsMusic:Boolean):void {
            var refClass:Class = getDefinitionByName(strSound) as Class;
            var sndTmp:Sound = new refClass();
            var iTmp:int = this._aSound.length;
            this._objSound[strSound] = { id:iTmp, bIsMusic: bIsMusic };
            if (bIsMusic) {
                this._objSound[strSound].spDummy = new Sprite();

Ha! that was easy ...

As you see the sounds name gets stored in an object (I just use it as dictionairy), I store an Object with some more values along with the name. And you surely might ask WHY on earth I did create a Sprite for music files ...
Well I'm a lamer, I use the Sprite to attach an onEnterFrameTo it for things like fading :)

Fast forward ...

k. Let's say we play some music, and only wont it to play 2 times, after that the sound should be removed from memory. Luckily we have the onSoundComplete Event, it should return (CS3 help): "The Sound object on which a sound has finished playing."

For me it reads like it returns the Sound that is playing. FAIL!

It does however return a SoundChannel, which of course HAS no information (prove me wrong) about the Sound it belongs to ...
So how can I unload/cleanup a Sound when an onSoundComplete occurs, if I don't know which Sound is playing (and don't want to write a seperate Listner for each sound)?

Oh lucky me...

Thank fuck I store a lot of things in my information object (not only what is shown in the add method), for instance I store the SoundChannel I got from Sound's play() command and I store if a Sound is playing ...

After a few hours of using our favorite search engine I came up with something so stupid it might even be brilliant ...

private function onSoundComplete (e:Event):void {
      var strKey:String;
      for (strKey in this._objSound) {
           if (this._objSound[strKey].bIsMusic) {
               if (this._objSound[strKey].chChannel == e.target) {
                   this._objSound[strKey].chChannel.removeEventListener(Event.SOUND_COMPLETE, this.onSoundComplete);
                   this._objSound[strKey].bIsPlaying = false;
                   // do some cleanup

Basically I loop over all music "files" that are playing and *compare* their SoundChannel with the one returned by the Event.
That's so insanely stupid! But it works. Sweet.

Maybe it helps some of you ...


9. October 2008 19:52 by nGFX
Just some news about the FHM game awards.

Teague at the sickeningly talented Hyperlaunch sent us a mail mentioning that they're working on this years awards, and that the awards were about recognising great development and developers, celebrating their efforts and thanking them for allowing so many of us to waste our time playing games when we should be working.
He also mentioned that everyone who entered would be given some cheeky widgets to help promote their games, plus a badge to stick in your game ( "FHM Web Game Awards '09" no less ). The outcome will be decided by user voting and the winner will recieve £3000 ( Or if you're in the land of dollars, enough to buy a house ).

You also have the choice to make a brand spanking and hopefully £3k winning game, or submit one of your existing ones and try and win without any real effort.

But you know what ? We value our integrity here, and we won't just pimp any old thing just 'cause someone wrote us a nice email.


Well now the genie is out of the bottle click [ here ] to find out more. It's well worth a bash, and although I don't know if we'll have anything new to offer up I'm sure we can wipe down some of the old stuff, spray it with some deoderant and just pretend it's new.


PS. Remember the kick back to us if you win. It's only right and fair.



8. October 2008 11:14 by nGFX

What do the following things have in comon?


test.swf (5,87 KB)

goAway.swf (8,07 KB)



After my funny little episode with the hacked version of Law of the West I started wondering how to prevent that little pricks that can use an URL changer or decompiler to mess around with my stuff. Above you see what might be a solution. It will not stop someone who really, really wants to see your code from seeing it in the end but it will make it reasonably hard.

So how can you prevent that someone just grabs a decompiler, changes things and publish it back?

Maybe if there is no game inside the swf, at least not directly visible.

This is a screenshot of the library of the goAway.swf. Nice, eh?

Right now goAway is a neat little console app (so you can batch it), that takes an swf, optional a textfile full of vars (so you can check them later from the game itself) and spits out a png.

This can be included in another swf (to be released) and is unpacked after loading - and viola you have your swf again, though it'll be like a loaded swf, so you loose your "root".

There is a lot more security related portential behind this:
- load the png from a server instead of including it.
- use a key to decrypt the png
- create the png on the fly on the server each time with a new key
- store multiple swfs/files in a single png to pack a multi file game into a single distributable swf without a lot of trouble
- and and and

The above swf is just a proof of concept and there is still alot to do on the goAway app in oder to make it useable (maybe a frontend, new features (like dynamic png dimensions, splitting into multiple png files for more security, different ways of reading writing the data into the png (byte order)) not to mention an AS3 class to easily handle the goAway png.

After all I'm quite pleased with the idea, as it makes it quite hard for script kids to mess around with a published flash file with the available tools. Making hacking a game just that little bit harder that is needed to seperate the users from the coders.

And of course SiCo will be used to obfuscate the goAway code ...



7. September 2008 14:25 by nGFX

I've been silent the last couple of weeks, too silent I reckon, but ... yet again I've been oompha-loompha'ing for various projects.

One of this projects really raised the bar in several ways (I think I'll do a rundown afterward - deadline is tomorrow, really, no way of extending it, even for a few minutes).

So for now let us assume we're dealing with a purely hypothetic project (as this is not about what all went wrong during the assignment).

This fantasy project should contain this:
- a menu, 3 languages, able to load in various games
- multi language support for the games (which have been done by someone else)

As I'm used to work with Flash's strings panel it was a logical choice to use, basically you can set it to "auto" mode and all assigned Textfields will be replaced at runtime with the associated one, you can also set a new language while running and everything is fine.

Or so I thought.

The menu worked fine, but then I got the first game ... oh, now we Imagine the first game ...
Some files ...
- one 150MB fla, called "library" - LIBRARY? yes.
- one 90MB called "game" ...
- a few more files (levels), each around 90MB

OK, library mustn't mean something bad.

Or so I thought.

Library in this case means something bad. BAD. BAD. BAD.
It meant: shared library (for those of you lucky enough to have not heard about it yet ... read about here.)
Oh when you're back from reading about it, you surely think "oh, that is nice"

WAIT! Don't ever even think about thinking "oh, that is nice" when it comes to shared libraries. They are EVIL!
It's the foot and mouth disease of Flash's features.

(imagine using one)
You'll first notice that you lose control about preloading - shared libs work like things exported to the first frame BUT without being able to detect their size.

Fast forward now ...

So you have the menu using Flash's strings panel, working, now it's time to load in the first game ...
I chose to use the good old and trusty loadMovie method instead of the MovieclipLoader class. So it was just a simple load and detect the size, start when done.


Well, I knew from other project that when loading an swf that uses Locale, the newly loaded swf (using Locale, too) replaces the language data from the holder swf. This is OK and it makes sense if you think about the fact that a static class is assigned to _global in AS2. So the game used the same language files the menu does ... easy.

The dirty details ...

The game loads in a couple of external mp3 files, so I had to take care of that, too - easy enough, so no problem there too..
This is what we see:
- loading starts, use getBytesLoaded / getBytesTotal to see when it's done ...
- tracing shows 140k of swf to load, fair enough.
- after loading that, nothing happened. For 900k nothing happened - Flash was loading in the shared lib.
- then I was able to watch the mp3 files loading and afterward start the game - finally.

The problem is that the user might think that the game isn't loading at all when the shared lib is loaded - THERE IS NO WAY OF WATCHING IT LOADING!!!!!!
First I thought I could trick my way out of it by loading the shared lib FIRST and then hope the cache would kick in when the game is later loaded - nice try buddy. No, it doesn't work (at least not very well).

I ended up by using a faked (and then real) file list to load the game, basically it shows that there are 2 files to load.
First the swf is loaded, then while waiting for it to load the shared lib, I fake a progress and later I add the mp3 files to that list also to watch them loading, too.

Now that this is off the list ...

Yehaa the game is loaded and ready to to be played ...
- level one works ...
- the "level done" screen pops up AND ... it is definitely NOT in the language I've been using in the menu. WTF?

In fact the game was now all in German, whereas I selected English for the menu.

WHY? What happened. I had no idea.

A lengthy search using your fav. search engine did not give us anything.

OK, so we're on our own again (hey, after all this is Flash).

Let the tracing begin ...

First thing I checked was the language set using Locale.getDefault():
- startup: "de" (because of my desktop language)
- set it to "en"
- (checking, yes now everything is "en")
- load game: still "en"
- play game: still "en"
- show level done: still ... "en"


More fast forward ...

A few hours later I have lost a good deal of hair, brain and energy and of course all the trouble is caused by ...  right . the shared library.
It seems like it overwrites the language data with it's own values but doesn't report it to Locale (so you can see it).

And they lived happily ever after ...

I ended up, oh, we "would" (we still imagine the project you know) with loading the game, loading all external files and THEN reload the language file.


ps: next time I tell you about the joys of using art based levels that consist of over 900 vector based drawings, movieclips and components ... which take almost 10 minutes to copy and move ... joy.

4. August 2008 07:28 by nGFX
Alpha is out, now there are just a few things left to do to improve the useability of the editor and wait for the final informations on how the main game should handle custom levels.

Oh and there are just a few levels to enter ... 130 to be honest.

On Friday I had the "more-than-bloody-stupid" idea to enter a few of them. I did 2.

The one that killed 100% of my motivation was a nightmare of force fields all pointing in different directions:

Believe me when I say looking at this level in full size can make you want to puke.

After some agonizing hours, I finally started to write a file converter that should be able to read in the binary file format of the original game. OH JOY!

This somehow kills the edia of entering the levels and testing them along the way to see if the engine can handle all the weirdness of the original creators (and I still do believe that some of the levels where purely designed to piss the player off as much as possible).

oh well ...


24. July 2008 08:37 by nGFX

CC is going to become early alpha tonight. I spent the last week adding levels and testing them along the way (which takes some time because they are quite ... complex ... and not easy to play). While making sure the game behaves like it should and fixing things that don't work quite like expected.

There are still some features missing and *a lot* of love left to add, but I think the engine is pretty solid now, it runs smooth in the editor and because it's tilesize independent it should also run in game mode (I'll see that later today).

Marmotte from dot-invasion has dome some georgeous tiles so this is done, too.

Basically there are a few renderings left (mainly for the player deaths) and I have to do all the sounds (including a lot of speach) and music.

And for the sake of it:
Our hero ...



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