Half-Bit Software

Pilot Pen Nib Swaperoo

Ages ago, I had a post about pens! (Hah. Post. Pens. Moving on.) I had two surprises from that, revolving around the Pilot pens - specifically, the Metropolitan and the Penmanship. One’s a fairly classic black, with pretty great weight to it, and the other is this odd clear plastic thing with grip-ridges and an odd cap.

They’re both pretty good pens, and especially at their prices, but I was always disappointed with how thick the Fine nib was in the Metropolitan. I like to put down a really, really thin line because my writing is cramped and my handwriting isn’t all that neat. Thin means I get to be a bit sloppy, so between the two pens, the Penmanship really won out.

That was pretty much the end of it until a week or two ago, when I started looking into nibs. Why couldn’t I put an EF into the Metro? Turns out, there was nothing but fear stopping me - and another Penmanship. I didn’t even bother searching, though knew that you could yank it out of a Penmanship and do a swap that way. Which, actually, is exactly what I did.

Here’s the shoot-the-Cacodemon-until-it-dies tip: wrap the nib and feed (the black thing with ridges) in tape to yank it out. I used packing tape, because the nib only extends about halfway down. Yep, just wrap that thing and give ‘er a tug. Be careful and gentle when unwrapping, repeat, then discover that the nibs just kinda fit into place. Sliding it back on was pretty straightforward too, and just took a little bit of force.

This is filed under “lol who cares” to just about everyone, but damn, I’m happy with this pen now. Dang, I never did end up doing that post about ink, did I? Spoiler alert: I put Montblanc Blue/Black ink in there. Puts down this really nice darkish-gray line. It was my go-to black before I got this other ink, but that’s for another post!

Weekly Update: 3-1-2015

This week, I did a bit more work on both Bullet Heck and my luxe evaluation. I was a little bummed out by the wiimote not being a good controller for luxe’s gamepad support, but I’ve got some spare 360 controllers that seem to do great. When I carve out the time I’m going to try to do a kind of physics-based arena Marble Madness kind of…thing. It’s still pretty nebulous but I think I’ve got enough of a hook that I should be able to fake something up.

There was a game demo event thing on Monday that went pretty well. Got a lot of stuff done on Bullet Heck just before, mostly adding text and story snippets. I also managed to fix a long-standing annoyance with the way controls worked. They’ve been kinda stupid and broken for awhile so it feels really good to get them in a confident state.

That was pretty much this week. Someday I’ll be done, though I’m a bit terrified to write out the full and complete ship-task-list. Those are usually pretty disheartening experiences. Don’t forget - when your game’s mechanics are done, you’re nowhere near done!

Weekly Update: 2-22-2015

This week went by in a flash, and not a whole lot got done! Er. Crap. That’s, uh, precisely the opposite of what I should be saying, huh?

It’s true, though! I was sick through most of the week, and Bullet Heck is starting to wind down in terms of features. There are still a few bugs left to squash, and some rough edges to polish, and - oh. Game Center, Leaderboards, score reporting, blech. Monetization, too, I guess. This is one of the problems with making stuff - even when you’re done, you’re not really done-done.

I guess the thing I poked at more this week was evaluating new environments. I’ve been looking a ton at luxe and snõwkit because of Jonathan Hirz, a cool dude I know on Twitter. (That had too many links. I’ll stop now, I swear.) It’s cross-platform, which is something I’ve wanted to be able to support for awhile. Looks like pushing out builds for gamejams and stuff is way more doable with this, too. It’s early days, but people seem happy with it.

The tricky part now is figuring out which silly prototype idea ought to be dusted off to get built in this thing.

I still really want to make a more general, non-generative version of Pixatronic at some point but I’m not really a pixel artist, so I don’t know if I’m the best to judge whether it’s useful or not. I have a few ideas on how to make it not suck, but I’ve had a lot of apathy towards that whole dumb thing - which is sad! I’m actually still pretty proud of how the canvas was all put together, code-wise. (Maybe that’s all rose-colored glasses, or something.)

I need clones or interns or something. Sheesh.

Weekly Update: 2-15-2015

This week started out strong with a fairly productive Art/Code night hosted by a local gamedev meetup group. I twiddled a bit on a traditional pixel editor for iOS, a procedural hero generator thingie, and finished it off with more tweaks and work on Bullet Heck.

Bullet Heck might be mechanics-complete at this point. The asteroid stages turned out pretty fun, and they add a lot of chaos that isn’t necessarily detrimental to the player. Still to be done is tweaking parameters with all of that stuff, which is what I’m planning on doing for the next week or so. Still doing general polish/bugfixes/rough-edge-sanding, which happens, uh, forever. Just ask anyone.

Taking a first stab at a silly little bit of story/flavor text at game-start, too. Should be sorta mad-libs-y with a bit of humor.

I probably need to spend a bit of time redoing sounds, too. They’re kind of a mess, and just kinda not good. Jumbled, unclear, nondistinct.

Oh, I twiddled a bit on a new wallpaper idea, too, something plaid-ish or Tartan-esque. Not quite done yet, but it looks kinda neat. Not eye-searing, at least.

Periodic Update: 2-8-2015

This week I started digging into Unity’s massive tutorial-o-rama. Cripes, you people loves you some videos, huh? Not a single text/picture intro tutorial in sight.

Most of the effort’s been focused on getting Bullet Heck done and fun. I added a new, silly gameplay mechanic this week that’s already cracking me up. Asteroids can fly in and ruin people’s day now, including the aliens. Should be pretty fun.

Informal playtest feedback has been pretty helpful, too. I’m liking Apple’s new TestFlight stuff. Seems like I don’t have to hound or hassle testers to get feedback these days, which is a pleasant surprise.

Lastly, I started noodling and writing down ideas for the Next Big Scary Thing. I don’t know what I want to build it in, and I don’t really know how I’m gonna do it, but I’m hoping to get that more nailed down in the coming weeks. We’ll see how it goes. It’s sort of procedural-ish and roguelike-y without being explicitly part of either faction.

Short update, I know - I’m still fighting stupid colds and have been majorly low on energy. Tis the season, I guess.

Periodic Update: 2-1-2015

This week was busy, so I’ll keep this brief. Did a bit more work on sounds for Bullet Heck and threw in music, too. Did a bitcrusher pass against it to make things nice and crunchy, but might’ve taken it a bit too far. Will probably tweak it more.

Not quite feature complete yet, but getting there. I’ve got a few more things I want to add before calling it done enough. Someday it might even come out!

That’ll be nice.

Oh. I guess the other thing that’s going on is that I’m getting pretty fed-up with SpriteKit and being stuck on Mac/iOS. I like obj-c (yes, I’m a crazy person) and I’m pretty good at using it, but it’s really limiting in terms of what I can make. I can’t do 4-player couch party games, and I’d like to. There are restrictions with their graphics engine that are starting to piss me off, too. See:

That’s pretty crappy. When does it make sense to do shadows like that? I’d have to do raycasting and silly tricks with zPosition to make it work the way I want to, and ugh. I don’t really have enough time available to spend it fighting with my tools.

Which means I’m kind of in a holding pattern while I fumble and fiddle with a few new technologies. Unity’s on the list just because everyone’s always goddamned talking about it, as is HaxeFlixel and snowkit. Both look neat, and both let me deploy anywhere.

Shit. Maybe I’ll end up making games for Android after all. Brave new world, huh?

Periodic Update: 1-25-2015

Shoot! It’s 11PM, and I nearly forgot to do my weekly progress update!

This week was spent giving Bullet Heck a lot of polish and effort. I improved performance a bit by pushing stuff onto the background and totally redid how audio works. Anyone who thinks they can ship a straight-up, boring SpriteKit game with just the stuff they give you is…well, not me, apparently. I was pleased that the stuff I wrote for Panic Attack slid over pretty easily. It all uses ObjectAL (which is just a wrapper over OpenAL - mostly) so sound hums along happily.

I had the bright idea to test the game on the train one commute home, and boy howdy, did I see a lot of silly little things - things I’ve fixed! Mostly! There are still a few little lingering dumb UI things, but it’s getting closer to ‘done’. Why all the work? Well, there’s a Pitch Party thing this Wednesday, and I was looking forward to showing it off a bit.

I also spent a very, very small amount of time twiddling with a little prototype idea. Basically, it’s sorta-kinda like pong, except with shooting balls? I don’t know, we’ll see if it goes anywhere.

Periodic Update: 1-18-2015

I’ve been sick all week, so this’ll be brief. More churn and minor improvements to The Dungeon’s codebase. There’s a lot of stupid to pick through. I also remembered something I really wanted to add to Panic Attack’s game over screen. The Dungeon was smart, because it let you share your score with the world. Crossy Road does this, too. Panic Attack ought to.

Most of the semi-productive time this week was spent thinking and improving Bullet Heck. It’s got a few little bugs that ought to be squashed before I show it off to more people, and one thing in particular I’d like to add are environmental hazards. (Those are my favorite.)

I’m also spinning up a little bit of time on a hero generator idea that Will from PIGSquad pitched at me. It’s pretty early yet, but it’ll probably be pretty cool and funny.

Periodic Update: 1-11-2015

Farva, your suspension…continues. As does work on getting things up and running with the new device sizes on The Dungeon. That work was pretty straightforward. There are still a few little deprecations that I need to deal with (mostly involving Game Center) but hopefully won’t require too much heavy thinking.

As for The Dungeon, most of the work I did this week had to do with general cleanup. I’ve said this in the past, but a few key facts bear repeating: this was my first iOS project, my first independent app, it was written pre-iPad and largely not updated for code quality along the way, and - most importantly - my last day job was a pretty great experience, in terms of seeing what good code ought to look like, and how it ought to be structured.

From that perspective, The Dungeon’s codebase is pretty tortured, but the good news is that it isn’t impossible to fix. It does feel like the last hurrah for it, in all likelihood, but slowly I’m learning not to assume that I’ll completely abandon anything. That does make it tricky to decide on new projects, knowing that there’ll probably be a non-zero support cost in the future, but I can live with that.

I had a couple of neat-ish ideas for wallpaper generators, too. One’ll mimic the kind of trendy soft-blur holiday photo, with floating lights, and the other is kind of a faked-up landscape mesh thing. I’ll get to those eventually, but I’ve been pretty pleasantly surprised at how well the app has done. I’m pretty proud of it, at this point, which means in six months I’ll get to hate it again. Sweet.

Periodic Update: 1-4-2015

My god. Three weeks? Sooner or later the novelty’ll wear off.

Had a reasonably productive week dredging through very, very crummy old code. Panic Attack’s in not-awful shape! The Dungeon is…coming along. One thing I’m going to have to spend some time fighting with is the general style. I did the in-game borders in Photoshop last time. I don’t want to do that again, because it was a massive nightmare.

This time I’ve got a lot more experience under my belt to maybe drop some of the assets for that. A simpler UI might be okay post-iOS 7. Fingers crossed.

Once I get off my butt, Panic Attack’ll get updated. I’ve got some Game Center deprecations to handle and maybe a tile style or two - heck, maybe even a new song!

The Dungeon is gonna take a fair bit more time than that. I’m finally dealing with all of the old, terrible code smell. Cripes, it’s bad. At least I did some work when the Obj-C literals stuff happened. Thank goodness for that.