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):
ce_promo_menu.jpg

(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



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28. November 2008 21:40 by Squize
Irony irony irony, you don't have to be so heavy handed. Subtle irony is better. It's funnier. Hell it's the English way.

Big nasty smiling in your face as it twists the knife in your stomach irony isn't good. Unless it happens to someone really bad who deserves it, but then you're treading on Karmas toes a little.

Two days after writing the post "Xbox, we love you", just after the 3 year extended warranty has expired, just as I'm building up to some quality down time with a clutch of new games for my baby, just as the NXE has come out, we've had a death in the family.

deathInTheFamily.jpg
"Jede dritte stirbt den Hitzetod"

My beautiful, fault free lump of gaming heaven has passed away. Bastard.

For those of you who don't know, that's known as the "Red Ring of Death". It's the Xbox's way of saying "You're going to need to buy a replacement for me, that's money you could do without spending just before Christmas isn't it. That'll teach you to finally do a blog post about me. Irony, that's what that is."

If this has taught me one thing, it's to never write a blog about how great my prostrate is feeling or that I'm glad I've never caught my testicles on razor wire.

Squize.

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26. November 2008 11:09 by Squize
I know there wasn't a lot of love for the Mii360's when it was announced, if you own a 360 by default you're a hard core gamer. Leave the avatars to Nintendo.

But... they're kinda more-ish. Here's what Olli and I look like when made of polygons.

avatar-body_nGFX.pngavatar-body.png

Obviously Olli isn't a child who's only been fed salt sandwiches for 6 months, nor am I a giant whose only eaten cake for 6 months ( I didn't realise the difference in size until 2 seconds ago when I uploaded them both. It looks like I could, and possibly will, eat Olli ).

Because we like looking at strangers who we don't really care about, here's how to link to your avatar,

http://avatar.xboxlive.com/avatar/YourGamerTag/avatar-body.png

So feel free to post a link in the comments, just so we can be surprised at whose's actually bald, or wears a dress, or is nothing like how we pictured them.
Or even better, if you've made your avatar look like some one famous, and not just the usual staples ( Mr. T, that's the avatar equivalent of going to a fancy dress party as the fucking Blues Brothers ) but the likes of Jesus, Charlie Mansion, the midget from Fantasy Island, John Wayne Gacy in his clown outfit. The more twisted the better actually.

Also if you just want the smaller gamer pic version, link to

http://avatar.xboxlive.com/avatar/YourGamerTag/avatarpic-l.png

Although that only works if you've taken / saved a snap shot of your new avatar as your gamer pic ( It won't link to the pre-NXE gamer pics ).

( Here's me again, trying to get my gamer pic to look like the last person in the world you'd ever want to be stuck in a lift with

avatarpic-l.png

Mental Mii ).

Squize.

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24. November 2008 11:22 by Squize
What a great title. It sounds nice and gamey. Like a sweet bullet time effect, or maybe a real time rewind function. Picture that, being able to pause and then rewind the action in any game, just by dropping the cessation time distortion component into your game. Nice.

It's actually got nothing to do with gaming or Flash, it's yet another smoking reference. Promise it'll be the last mention of my own personal trial on here ( In 15 mins I'll have been a non-smoker for exactly 1 week, hence my final farewell to banging on about how hard it is etc. etc. ).

"A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure.
It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied.
What more can one want ?
"
Oscar Wilde.
I've been doing a bit of reading about smoking and the effects it has on you, it does help when trying to stop, as it makes you realise it's not just a case of you being weak. It's a bit more than just caving in and eating that last bit of cake.
Ok we all know smokings bad. No one is so stupid as to think otherwise. Non-smokers just don't get how smokers can smoke, I mean it stinks, it's bad for you and it costs the earth. Smokers just hide behind a million different reasons just to keep smoking.
( Personally I used the combination of "I do actually enjoy it", "It helps me think" < Strong reason for me there, "I stopped before, and I remember how hard it was, and now I'm self employed I just don't have the time to effectively write off two weeks suffering withdrawal pangs". If you're a smoker I'm sure you can add your own to this list ).

So we all know all the bad things about smoking, the smell, the social costs ( It's no longer cool kids, try standing outside in the rain smoking, far from cool. Speaking of which, I'm sure I can't be the only smoker ever to stand in the rain, thinking "What the fuck am I doing this for ? I'm not even enjoying it that much anymore" only to do it again the next day. Same as going to a shop at 3am to buy some smokes 'cause there's nothing worse than waking up without a cigarette is there. ).

But here's something I only found out over the past couple of days. I was kinda aware of it, but never really knew the details. It's something that's never really thrown up as a reason to not smoke in the first place, I assume that cancer and heart disease are treated as good ( Bad ? ) enough reasons, in addition to the usual staples ( Smell, cost, ages your skin etc. etc. ).
To me it's caused more of a knee jerk than either of the big boy reasons not to smoke.

( Again, there's this pre-conception that smokers are dumb 'cause smoking greatly increases your chance of getting a million different cancers, with lung cancer being the big one, the mother of cancers. God's way of really smiting the smoker. You want to smoke ? Here's a cancer just for you. That'll fucking teach you.
As a smoker you know that, but it's an addiction non-smokers, so you can twist anything to suit your argument [ To keep smoking ].
Here's some stock replies, that I'm sure I've used before "I could get run over by a bus tomorrow", "You only live once, life's too short to worry about things like that. Anyway they say you can get cancer from <insert whatever has just been in the news recently that can give you cancer> so what can you believe anymore?" or the classic "I know it's bad for me, I'll stop smoking as soon as I notice my health getting worse, so I'll be fine".
I'm sure my Dad used that last one, he also used the other classic "Uncle Tom smoked 80 a day from the age of 14 and died in his 80s and was fit and healthy right to the end". Every smoker has that uncle Tom. My Dad died of lung cancer when I was 20, so 16 years ago. I started smoking when I was 17, and by the time Dad was dying infront of us I was quite happily smoking 20 a day. At his funeral ( Which btw was the first one I'd ever been too. Not the best way to lose your burial virginity ) I was desperate for a smoke, and when I got the chance, I did.
Here's a good definition of an addiction, "The uncontrollable, compulsive drug craving, seeking, and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences." [source]. That's what smoking is, that's what makes you want to smoke at your Dad's funeral. It really is more than just not being able to turn down that last bit of cake ).

Nicotine is a poison, we all know that. It's the tobacco plants natural protection from insects. Drop for drop it's 3 times more deadly than arsenic. I guess there aren't too many insects eating tobacco leaves. It's also a member of the same family as cocaine, morphine, quinine and strychnine. Nice family.
But here's the detail that I only discovered the other day, the "If only I'd known that before I started smoking" bit of info ( That really wouldn't have made much difference in all honesty, but more than the big guns of reasons not to smoke ).

Eight seconds after your first ever drag your brain releases a ton of dopamine ( You can read the very dry definition here, or if you want to skip that, it increases heart rate and blood pressure. Basically it's an instant rush. It's also connected with your bodies reward system, which is handy in terms of forming an addiction ).
K, you've taken your first ever smoke. Nasty as hell. You're going to have to work quite hard to get addicted to this, but don't worry, smoking messes up your sense of smell and taste, so in effect it masks the fact that it tastes like what it is, poison. Also you know that stat about cigarette smoke containing 4000+ chemicals, included in those are things like Cocoa and Corn Syrup, added to make it smell less like death, and more like a white stick of nice.

Your brain knows poison when it gets a lung full of it. In return it reduces the number of [ Acetylcholine ] receptors available to receive nicotine to try and protect itself. It also reduces the number of transporters capable of moving the nicotine around in your brain, and as a final wave of protection, in other areas not affected by that first ever rush of nicotine it creates millions of extra receptors, so if you do have any more nicotine intake it's spread out more.
That's why you'll never ever get the same hit from a smoke as you did on that first ever time, every cig since that very first draw has been an attempt to re-create that first buzz. Your brain has re-wired itself to protect itself from having too much posion concentrated in one spot.

That's the thing that's freaked me out. That the crap I breathed in is dangerous enough that my brain is physically different, that it adapted itself straight away to avoid the harmful effects of nicotine ( The same thing happens with other drugs, it's the bodies way of coping with having something in it that really shouldn't be there ).

And connected to your brain being different to cope with nicotine ? Cessation Time Distortion.
In that first 72 hours when you stop smoking you have some nicotine left in your system ( It has a half life of 2 hours that's why when you're a smoker going over a couple of hours without smoking is hard as hell, for me it was an hour before I'd start getting really needy for one ), but it's not enough and that's why your brain throws a hissy fit.
This includes mood swings, lack of concentration ( It's exactly a week today that I stopped, and it's only just starting to sort itself out, although this post has taken ages to write ) and all the other things that make you a pain in the arse when you stop. At it's most simple level, you have a panic attack due to not being able to get what you crave, mixed in with your body regaining control of it's fight or flight mechanism, which has been run by nicotine since you started smoking ( Hence the attacks of instant pure rage for no real reason. Your body isn't used to handling anger itself properly any more, it's like when people have their sight restored after years of being blind, it's just over whelming and your brain doesn't really know how to cope ).

After those first 72 hours your brain kinda gets it, and starts resetting the changes it had put in place. Basically you're learning how to be the real you again, as opposed to the smoking-in-the-rain-even-though-you-don't-enjoy-it you. This isn't too smooth either, but should only take a couple of weeks.
Part of this re-wiring process is this really weird side effect, time distortion. Your whole concept of time is screwed. As a rule we all have pretty good internal clocks ( We've all had that "Got to get up in the morning it's really important" and then woken up a couple of minutes before the alarm was due to go off ) but during this process of re-wiring it's a million miles out.

At first that's a nasty thing. You know how when you're waiting at the doctors or the dentist time just drags. It's 'cause you're a bit bored, perhaps a bit worried about what's coming up, and it just seems to go in slowmo.
When you stop smoking, the whole day is like that. It's like the week before Christmas when you're a kid, it just goes on and on forever. Apparently actual physical nicotine cravings only last for 3 minutes at a time, but during the first couple of days you get hit by a lot of these cravings, and mixed in with this newly found no concept of time at all, they really really don't feel like 3 minutes.

Now I'm at the worst is behind me stage, this whole time distortion is nearly as cool as a component you could just drop into your Flash game to control time. I'm getting more done because I have more time on my hands. Not just 'cause I'm not having to shoot outside every 45mins / hour for a smoke, but because my brain really doesn't have a clue how long things take.
Which is such a result, as I have a deadline this Friday, and I've done relatively little the past week because I've had no concentration at all. I'm hoping I'm going to stay ever so slightly mental long enough to get the new game done.

And on that note, we're back onto games and leaving smoking behind. Normal service should resume tomorrow, thanks for indulging me.

Squize.

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16. November 2008 18:52 by Squize
Gears of War2, the most stunning game I've ever seen, and despite some of the on-rails sections being a bit tricky to the point of swearing at the TV, it's a fantastic game.

One of the new features in it is your "War Journal", where your progress is kept.

gearsJournal.jpg

Which is a really sweet feature. Although it reminds me ever so slightly of...

disJournal.jpg

Nice to know that my thoughts aren't a million miles away from Epic's at times ( I didn't come up with the idea of the journal in Death in Sakkara, but I'm pretty sure that having extra hidden collectables was down to me. That was obviously before I started the 3 month crunch to actually code the game ).

Squize.

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15. November 2008 18:12 by Squize
The indie Flash game community seems to love stats. I guess it's 'cause it's always nice to see someone whose written something good getting the recognition ( Even if it is more in terms of traffic than cash ), and because it's slightly inspirational, that everyone is just one good game away from achieving the same results.

When our game Chimbo got blammed on newgrounds it really shook me quite hard. It's the first time that I've really had a project fail on me ( I've had games I've not been able to sell before, but never something out there which has performed badly on a critical level ).
We thought that was it for the game. We were under no illusions of what the game was, a reskin of an even older game. It's far from great, but both Olli and I chatted about it before hand ( Like we always do ) and considered it good enough to go out under the gyw banner. It's an average game that looks pretty with varying degrees of presentation.
That was it then, a footnote in our history.

And then the traffic started to creep up. It got on some front pages of high traffic sites, only for a day or two ( Such is the turnaround on such sites ) and got spread around a little.

chimboStats.png

At present Chimbo is hosted on 392 sites, and in the 281 days it's been hosted on gamejacket it's served up 1,248,011 impressions. Not a hit by any stretch of the imagination, but average traffic for an average game which started it's life quite badly ( And apparently in gamejacket's all time top 20 hits, although I think that's more through default 'cause it's been there pretty much since the beginining ).
Today it's had 4359 impressions, which is a nice trickle of people ( Hopefully ) having some fun with it. It's proved to be a slow burner ( Hopefully pinball will be the same, as that's done relatively poorly ).

So is there anything you can take away from this ? I mean it's all well and good seeing a nice graph and knowing one of our games hasn't done too badly, but it doesn't help you much.
Hopefully it shows that sites with a typical teenage boy market ( Ninja zombie pirate shoot'em up anyone ?) aren't the be all and end all. There are a lot of sites which are targetted at young girls too which have insane amounts of traffic. Chimbo had 50k+ hits in one day purely by being front paged on a girl site ( That sounds terrible, "A site aimed specifically at girls" is what I should have said ). If you got that sort of traffic on ng or Kong in one day you'd be pretty pleased.

To show this isn't a one off, the game I did for gimme5, Loved Up, died on it's arse on all the "usual" sites, then went on to be g5's top referring game for months.

Is there a large mostly untapped audience for "games for girls" ? Hell yes. I spoke to Barry at gamejacket just the other day and he told me that they're now generating two lists [ Of portals ], the usual one and one for the female audience.
You may think it's selling your soul to do a game targetted specifically at girls. You want to do Metal Slug X, not Me and My Pony, but a game which appeals to a young female audience doesn't have to be overly twee or technically "cheap". Just see it as another genre which should be on your list of ones to try, same as doing a puzzle game or a mode7 racer etc.

Anyway to wrap up this posts about stats, here's a great couple of links where you get to see dirty hard amounts of cash, compiled by Drastika ( Cheers Paul, saved me hunting these down ).

Elite games' earnings ( For Oct )

Emanuele Feronato's one year money making experiment results

Squize.

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10. November 2008 19:13 by Squize
I've posted here before on our google indexing. Also the blog software records what search terms drive people here, the most popular being "as3 frame counter" and "as3 flex preloader". We get a lot of disappointed Cure fans with "I don't care if Mondays blue" as well as some other really obscure searches landing here ( "Boylinks" comes up a lot, don't ask ).

Checking the logs Friday I came across this gem from google.com.au,

"WHY THE FUCK WON'T STUPID FUCKING as3 LET ME FUCKING CREATE AN EVENTLISTENER"

( We've got the number one rank for that phrase, I really don't know why, we can't be the only people using the word "fuck" and "as3" in the same posts surely ).

Anyway to be so pissed off at coding to swear at google is something we totally sympathise with ( As well as admire in a slightly mental way ), and whoever you were, you're a kindred spirit mate.

[Update: I've also noticed other people are entering the phrase into google, is that just to see if we're ranked number one for it ? I think we own it now :)
Also today, "wee sex" gets us a front page hit. I think I may need to calm down the bad language and obscure sex terms on here, as we're going to be getting hits for the most obscure stupid things. golden showers ].

Squize.

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31. October 2008 16:25 by Squize
petal.jpg

Meet Petal

As way of a slight added bonus, click here to expand your mind ( Or make yourself feel sick, it'll be one or the other ).

Squize.

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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)

test.png

goAway.jpg


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 ...

Ha!

nGFX

2. October 2008 21:20 by Squize

Air. The future of RIA. Unless you try and actually use it.

I've been wanting to write a swf encryptor for ages and last night I finally cracked ( As I'm working on something that I really don't want decompiling for various reasons ).
It was a toss up between Zinc and Air, but I opted for AIR 'cause in theory it is the future and therefore should have better support than Zinc.

So after all the hype surrounding Air I should just be able to google around, find out how to drag and drop, save a file and some other basics. I develop in Flex rather than cs3 'cause it's a million times better, but any search for Flex and Air just brings up examples using MXML. That's not great.

Eventually I found a hacky way to create an Air project in actionscript in Flex ( It's so convoluted it's untrue. You create a Flex project as opposed to an AS one as usual, tick the Air box, but on the part where you set the document class you alter the mxml extension to .as and it works ).
Getting there. Published the main class and up popped... nothing. More searching and I found out how to set it up ( A big thanks to Toby for blogging about it, without his words I'd have given up all together ).

Cool, got a window in place now. Close it, try publishing it again, and... nothing. Lot's more searching ( And swearing ) and I found out what the problem was, and the cure. If you don't exit your app correctly ( ie call an exit() after adding a listener to the close button ) then it doesn't actually exit correctly ( I found this out myself after a lot of messing about ).
When you publish an air app it runs something called adl.exe ( Adobe Debugging something. I've had enough air googling for a life time so can't face looking it up ) which runs the swf wrapped in the air api.
If you don't call exit() then when you close the app adl.exe keeps running. Ok, that's not the end of the world. What actually is though, is that you can only run one instance of adl.exe. If it's running after you've closed your app incorrectly, then you can't run any more air apps.
The beautiful thing is, it doesn't tell you. Flex doesn't tell you either. It's like they've ganged up to keep us in the dark.

Until I figured out the whole exit() thing, I was working with task manager open closing it down every time. The only solutions I found online were, yep, work with task manager open and...

Ok it kinda makes sense, and if you've got to call exit() then you've got to call it, but c'mon, this is the future of RIA and I've got task manger open to kill it ?
It all feels very beta-ish, from the hacky way to even create an Air project in Flex to that.

Once I got past these hurdles, I must admit it wasn't that bad. The lack of docs ( I only found this after I'd gone through a lot of pain ) has made it a less pleasant exercise than it should have been ( Oh joy, another mxml example for something I want to do with code ).

One weird thing which I'm putting down to me is that when I drag and drop a swf into my sexy little app it runs the app twice. I don't mean it opens another window, it just runs through all the code twice ( In alcon I was getting,
"wtf ?"
"wtf ?"
which was a bit of a give away ). A little kludgy check cleared that up.

At present we've got a simple little app which you can drag a swf onto, it then encrypts that with blowfish via the very nice Crypto library and you can then save that back out.

Next up ( And what I've been swearing at for the past hour or so ) is the decryption routines. Well, the code is being embedded and decrypted, it's just figuring out how to then make that byteArray run as a swf rather than just sitting there annoying me.

Squize.

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