The Wandering Wizard Dev. Journal #1: Starting Out

Late last month I decided to reboot a project that I had started last semester. I had made some good progress on it before summer break but I stopped working on it when I was inspired to develop my proposal platformer. Ever since taking an android development class in Fall of 2011 I had been searching for my great idea and one day while out walking I realized that the problem with a lot of mobile games is the way that they are controlled. Like it or not, virtual joysticks and numpads will never come close to a keyboard or a controller. After coming to this conclusion the light bulb went on and I thought of a (hopefully) pretty good idea.

The Concept

The resulting vision was a puzzle platformer where you had no direct control of your character, but instead indirectly manipulated his movements using a set of spells. The main character, who I will now refer to as “the wizard”, can cast spells in two different ways. One way is to shoot them as a projectile. This affects the environment around him; such as burning ropes and freezing water. The second way he can cast spells is on himself. For example if he needs to stop moving to avoid being crushed he would cast the ice spell on himself.

When playing any level the challenge is twofold. Firstly the player must figure out how to effectively use the wizard’s spells to get through the level. Secondly, once the player knows what they need to do they have to actually do it right. Many levels require timing and precision to make it through alive.

Words can only convey so much so here is a video of a very early stage of the game (ignore the title, I have changed it since making the video)

Where to Start?

After developing my concept I had to figure out where to start. When starting a game there are many options. I could have programmed everything straight from OpenGl. This is a graphics library that is supported by android. If I went this route I would be doing a lot of background coding like a tile engine and a physics engine. I also would be placing all the graphics straight from code unless I made my own map editor or something. Even if I used preexisting libraries and engines there would still be a lot of groundwork to do before there was any real tangible result. Many programmers love to tinker in all that stuff and have full control of everything but I firmly believe in not reinventing the wheel and getting right to the fun stuff.

In the end I settled on a cross platform game creation tool called Unity3D. Normally the android version of this software would cost a pretty penny but I was lucky enough to get it during a student giveaway period. Although Unity is meant for 3D game development after doing some research I confirmed that it was perfectly viable for 2D development as well.  By using this tool I was saved the trouble of graphics coding and physics coding. I could even drag my sprites right into a viewport to build the levels! Additionally Unity has an asset store with many free and paid plugins that basically just make development faster and life easier. On top of all these advantages the potential for expansion that Unity gives me is amazing. If I want to in the future I can easily deploy my game to the web, iphone, mac, and pc. In future versions of Unity I believe even Linux and Windows 8 Tablet apps will be supported.

To Be Continued…

This is all the information I feel like writing about right now but expect more information in the future. I plan to talk about various things such as difficulties I’ve faced with Unity, where I’m getting my graphics and music, and whatever else I feel like. I’ve made a lot of progress in the few weeks that I’ve been working and I look forward to eventually sharing my game with the world!

Subjected to Paper: My little rant on teachers who ban laptops

When it comes to note-taking I’m generally not the best, but one thing I will say for myself is that I have a system. A system that I have developed to perfection over my college career. First I get a cloud storage service i.e. Google Drive, Dropbox, Skydrive (this year it’s Skydrive). Then I make a folder for each class where I can put my syllabus, any digital readings or assignments, and most importantly my notes. For any class excluding math courses I find that taking notes with a keyboard is much more efficient than writing things by hand. Additionally when I’m writing fast with a pencil or pen it tends to become unreadable. Digital notes also cut down on paper usage if you’re into the whole go green thing.

All of that being said, I get a little aggravated when my teachers tell me that I am forbidden from using a laptop in class. It throws a wrench in my well oiled machine and makes it much less likely that I will be able to take good notes and more importantly, find the information again when I need it. Now all of these professors think that they have good reasons for disallowing laptops in class but in my humble opinion they are dead wrong! There are only two arguments I ever hear for banning laptops. Below are descriptions of these reasons and my take on them.

You will distract yourself and fail the course

Ok so this seems like a pretty logical argument. If you have a laptop in class you will spend all of your time browsing the web and checking your Facebook which will distract you from the lecture and cause you to fail the course. The problem I have with this is the same problem I have with mandatory attendance (we won’t get into that now). I pay for every lecture that I attend and if I want to waste that lecture by checking my Facebook then that should be my own choice to make, plain and simple. The exception to this is in certain classes that are centered around participation and discussion but most of the time that does not apply.

You will distract others and make them fail the course

Again this seems perfectly rational and has a bit of truth in it. If you are allowed to use your laptop in class you will inevitably cave and log into WOW and spend the whole class questing instead of learning. This of course will be so interesting that  everyone in the class will feel their eyes gravitating to your screen and the hope for education will be destroyed. I am not denying that their are people who will play games and watch movies while in class but I don’t think I’ve ever been overly distracted or seen anyone else get distracted. Usually these people tend to sit in the back of the class where no one can see what they are doing.

If you have anything to add to either side of this argument feel free to post your opinion in the comments.

Don’t let dust heat things up

It’s amazing how much harm a little dust can do. When I woke up this morning I found to my dismay that my desktop PC had turned itself off during the night. On the monitor was a warning stating that my CPU had overheated. EEEK!!!

Naturally the first thing I did after booting back up was install a CPU temperature monitor. I chose Core Temp for the task. After starting up Core Temp I found that all 4 cores were hovering just under 80°C at idle. This is pretty warm for a CPU that is literally doing nothing but since I was running late for work I decided it could wait.

My suspicion was that my thermal paste had somehow cracked and broken it’s seal (I have had this problem before) but I thought I would pop open the side panel and dust her out just to be on the safe side. After brandishing my trusty air duster and expelling the evil dust bunnies from my PCs depths I reevaluated the temps and looked for improvement.

After just about 5 minutes the temp (still idle) had dropped to around 70°C and well into the safe zone. SCORE!!! So the moral of the story is dust can cause your computer to overheat which makes the fans work harder and decreases the life expectancy of your hardware so keep ahead of it.