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iPhone 6 and 6 Plus gaming

September 14th, 2014

What’s this? Two posts, in the same year? Madness!

As mentioned in my New Beginnings post- I’m gearing up for game development to become more and more central to my life, so this blog and my twitter account ( @ChronoSoft if you’re not already following me ) should be much more active than before.

Everyone’s heard about the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus by now. Many are excited for the possibilities of larger screen gaming, but some developers have concerns about games looking less than optimal on the new phones.

I fall somewhere in the middle of these two camps. Why? I like my pixels crisp, with lines so sharp you can cut yourself on them! That may be a problem with the new iPhones coming out next week, especially for games that do not get updated.

The screens on these new phones are fantastic of course, higher resolution than any previous iPhone generation. I have no doubt they will be beautiful. The issues I have stem from the “desktop class scaling” that Apple referred to during their presentations. I’ll try to explain the problem without using too much technical detail:

Both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will upscale existing apps to fit the new screen space available to them rather than show black bars as older iPhone apps would do on the 5, 5s, and 5c. Your older apps and games will believe that they are running at 1136×640, but the content is being stretched to fit either 1334×750 (on the 6) or 1920×1080 (on the 6 Plus). This means every game in the store will need updating in order to avoid this undesirable effect.

The iPhone 6 Plus actually has a second issue. In a nutshell the screen is rendered at 2208×1242 and then down-sampled to fit 1920×1080 (note that this is exactly how the Retina MacBook Pros operate). This will have the effect of subtly softening and blurring things, even when running native iPhone 6 Plus apps! I’m not yet sure if this will affect OpenGL or “Metal” drawing APIs. If it does, pixel art fans will notice the difference, and many will be unhappy.

Now, all may not be lost… I’ve not yet dug into the latest XCode and iOS SDK to see if we can target pixel-perfect 1920×1080 resolution with OpenGL drawing on the iPhone 6 Plus. It seems this should be possible, especially because 3D games usually need the extra rendering performance that could come from drawing at “only” 1920×1080!

I was tempted to buy an iPhone 6 Plus to dig into the problem first-hand. However, after testing their relative sizes with cheap cases I got from Amazon, I decided to go with the 4.7″ iPhone 6 as it was more reasonably sized for my hands and pockets.

My iPhone 6 should arrive on “launch day” this coming Friday, hopefully I can tweak Rogue Touch one more time to fit the new form-factor… and then it’s back to work on Spirit Hunter Mineko and Rogue Touch 2! :D

New iOS, new devices, new beginnings for ChronoSoft

September 9th, 2014

Wow, I am shocked that it has been a whole year(!!!) since my last blog post, but here we are.

Today Apple unveiled some pretty cool stuff… meanwhile, I have not… This is certainly not the way I had planned these last few years to progress.

Let’s back up a bit.

Rogue Touch was developed back in 2008 and released in early 2009, as love-letter to the time I spent playing Rogue in the 1980s on the Atari ST. I knew nothing of Objective-C back then… not a darn thing about OpenGL either (all on-screen drawing was done with clever use of CALayers)… never completed and released a full game before that point in my life, despite wanting to be a game developer since the 1970s!

Later that year when I first came up with the concept for Spirit Hunter Mineko, the iPhone 3GS was the top of the line device from Apple. No high speed, multi core CPUs, no varied resolutions or form-factors, no retina displays! The tech was primitive, the dev tools were weaker. 5+ years ago seems like the dark ages.

Since then, Apple’s devices and developer tools have evolved, and mobile gaming has improved dramatically. There’s also been a sort of Roguelike Renaissance… many people are discovering the roguelike genre and realizing they enjoy games that have consequences!

You may be wondering what’s been happening with ChronoSoft during all this? Why the $@*% hasn’t that guy released any more games?! Well, life has a knack for making things difficult:

First issue- the need for money, a place to live, and food on the table- My very high living expenses have traditionally been covered by my industrial automation consulting business for the last 17 years. This income is also how I’ve been paying artists for their work (rather than crowdfunding). Business volume exploded for me beginning in 2010… normally considered a good problem to have! But not so great for Mineko. After working so many hours each week I couldn’t even think straight, never mind write code for games.

Second issue- life’s challenges- These started with my divorce in 2011 which left me with a financial hole to dig out of, after which I’ve attempted to piece my life together again. This stressful time was followed up with the untimely deaths of a couple of colleagues I’ve worked with for years, and a close friend with serious legal issues in need of help. All of these things affected my day-to-day life significantly.

Here I am several years later, with no new releases. That which has not killed me, has made me stronger? Perhaps! I can say my whole outlook on life has been changed… My ideas of what it takes to be happy… How much “stuff” or money I actually need in my life… I’ve lost 85lbs and am in better shape now in my 40s than I was in High School! (Ugh where did all the time go?!)

All of this life experience has been pointing me toward what was always right in front of me. I was never happier than when I was learning new stuff and making my first game, Rogue Touch. Back in 2008/09 it was only a diversion from my “real work”. But now that my life and the financial dust are settling, I am at a point where it just might be possible to make a modest living at this!

With that in mind, this year I’ve been taking steps to reduce my monthly expenses so that I do not set myself up to fail. An indie game developer with a high cost of living will not be in business for long! Still more to do in this area, but my situation improves every month. Once my desired threshold is reached, I’ll be able to “force-quit” my automation consulting business.

Over the last several years I have also increased my knowledge in many areas of game design, procedural generation, AI, and graphics… which means I’ll be able to produce more beautiful and exciting results than I was ever capable of before. I feel that I am finally equipped with the skills to make very good, or maybe even great games!

I’ve been kicked repeatedly while down, but I’m up again and more agile than ever. Also learned to eat life’s sucker-punches for breakfast!

When I take these steps into the next phase of my life I’m 100% committed, I sincerely hope you will come along on the journey with me to see what happens! :D

iOS 7 – Rogue’s End?

September 9th, 2013

Well, not exactly… But Rogue Touch has had a pretty long and healthy life in the App Store. These days its aged appearance is not doing it any favors, and good grief man, my old code is horrible to look at!

iOS 7 and a new round of hardware (likely new iPhones and iPods) will be unveiled tomorrow at Apple Headquarters in Cupertino. Rogue Touch has run on every generation of hardware and every version of iOS since 2.0… But patching it up to support newer OS and hardware correctly is frustrating. Since I was a novice to iOS and Objective C back when I created RT, I did a lot of unspeakable things in the code that are facepalm-worthy today.

People who follow me on twitter may be aware, there’s a small gotcha coming when Apple releases the latest version of iOS. When you update to iOS7, the “Greetings, Rogue” popup no longer allows you to enter a name, so you are temporarily stuck with whatever name you last made a run with in iOS6 as your default, or with “Rodney” on a fresh install! I am in the process of fixing this, and attempting to maintain compatibility back to iOS4.3 (or roughly in that era).

This will near-definitely be the last update to Rogue Touch as you know it. However, the next generation of Rogue is well into production and will be unveiled on a very special date! Additionally, there is an incredible amount of neat stuff to talk about with Spirit Hunter Mineko, and my future development plans.

With any luck I will have the iOS7 compatibility fix done along with a couple other nice tweaks added in and submitted to Apple later this week, and still manage to beat the worldwide release of iOS7 if they hold back another week or two ;)


May 27th, 2013

Been a long time since I’ve written here… I know everyone’s interested to know just what the heck is happening with Rogue Touch 2.0 and Spirit Hunter Mineko! Those projects are still very much alive, but not directly my topic today. My current activity with those projects actually allowed me to stumble across one more excellent indie Kickstarter project that I think deserves some attention here: TinyKeep

Recently I was searching for a few more dungeon generation techniques and some AI articles to get ideas for enhancing Mineko, and stumbled across Phi Dinh’s work in these areas… he has written articles and created a few videos on these topics while working on his vision for TinyKeep (really worth checking out if you’re technically minded!).

As it turns out, TinyKeep is a realtime dungeon crawler with some neat procedural dungeon generation, and lots of clever AI. Or at least it will be when it’s done! This is where roguelike and dungeon crawler fans need to come to the rescue… Phi has only a few days left for his TinyKeep Kickstarter and could really use some love and support from the community.

I’ve donated to his Kickstarter cause already, and hope that some of you can help by donating as well. Phi’s a great guy with some really smart ideas, I would love to see him succeed with TinyKeep.

(I promise that you’re going to see a lot more of me soon… Big plans and announcements are afoot!)

Sword of Fargoal 2 – Kickstarter, and more!

October 12th, 2012

So there’s a great game in the App Store called Sword of Fargoal (get it on iTunes now!) that I’ve played a lot of over the past few years… It was originally created by Jeff McCord way back in the early days of gaming, and brought to life again for iOS by Paul Pridham AKA Madgarden.

They have been trying to fund a greatly expanded sequel to this classic dungeon crawler on Kickstarter (please see their Kickstarter campaign here). Time is running out for them to reach their goal. I’ve made a large pledge myself, at the “HERO” level. But they still need thousands more from backers before 3PM Saturday PST to make the goal.

Jeff is hosting a “Kick-A-Thon” starting at 3PM today PST, and running for 24 hours until the close of the Kickstarter campaign. This will be broadcast on the web via Google Hangouts, with some great guest speakers including the likes of Brenda Brathwaite and Tom Hall! They will be talking about their upcoming game “SHAKER”, an old-school RPG also on Kickstarter.

Here’s some more fun news- I will be appearing via webcam on the “Kick-A-Thon” for an hour as well, starting 11AM Saturday PST (2PM EST)! We’ll be discussing retro-gaming, roguelikes, and a variety of fun topics including my upcoming games! :)

Finally, I’m a co-sponsor for this last kick / push to the goal…

1) People who pledge to the “ROGUE” level or higher tomorrow will receive an extra bonus, in addition to the great items that are being offered in the KS- A Rogue Touch Promo Code to use or share with a friend as you see fit! Limited to the first 30 people who pledge on Saturday.

2) If you can pledge at the “MONSTER SLAYER” level or higher tomorrow I’ll allow you into my private beta test group for Dungeon Tactics: Spirit Hunter Mineko! Beta testing for Mineko is still quite a ways off, but you’ll be “in the club” and also get access to help me test other games in the future. This is limited to the first 20 people who pledge at this level on Saturday.

I’ll grant these extra gifts to people who can raise their existing pledge to the necessary level on Saturday as well as new pledges that appear, so if you have donated already but want in on this action… you know what to do ;) Note that Jeff McCord will be the final judge of who is awarded these gifts if there is any confusion, since he is in charge of the KS campaign.

This may seem funny, talking passionately about a game I’m not directly involved with, but I hope some of you can help them reach the goal. We can all benefit from more fantastic dungeon crawlers, roguelikes, and “Fargoal-likes” in the the world :)

Rogue Touch v1.62 in the wild :)

October 10th, 2012

The latest update arrived overnight in the App Store, this one finally correcting all the issues with iOS 6 when playing Rogue Touch.

Definitely learned I need to check all aspects of gameplay very carefully whenever a new iOS update appears, probably on the final private beta… which means I need to pick up an iPod Touch this fall that I can screw up without destroying my iPhone while on the road :)

I’ll also be setting up my TestFlight account for official development testing soon. There’s some long-standing forum members and friends out there that are must haves on my beta-list… Of course I will be requesting new eyes as well!

My apologies to anyone who lost a great “in-progress” game due to the iOS 6 related bugs, I hope you’ll continue to play and be ready for the future Rogue Touch overhaul, as well as Spirit Hunter Mineko!

Thanks for all your support! :)

Rogue Touch v1.61 Update is Live!

October 1st, 2012

The title says it all… For those who missed the previous post, a strange bug affected RT v1.6 when played on the newly released iOS 6. This prevented you from using the popup menu to descend the stairs, or any other actions that are triggered on those menus. Downloading this update will fix you right up, and speed up your gameplay experience a bit more too!

Note that v1.61 only supports back to iOS 4.3 now, instead of iOS 3.0. This is due to changes with Xcode that prevent me compiling for older targets. The next major upgrade of Rogue Touch will likely boost that requirement to iOS 5.

Feel free to provide me some feedback here, and update your iTunes reviews when you have a moment. Thanks for your support! :)

iOS 6 and Rogue Touch

September 23rd, 2012

Hello everyone, time for some bad/good news!

I’ve been away, out of the country for a number of weeks… Never updated my iPhone to any beta of iOS 6 because my 4S is my lifeline for everything, and I have had some very bad experiences with beta-expiry at inopportune moments while on the road. Returned at the end of this past week after the release of iOS 6 into the wild… and suddenly received reports of an issue with Rogue Touch!

So the bad news- If you have iOS 6 and tried to play RT, you’ll note that the pop-up sheet buttons for context-actions like “Descend Stairs” don’t seem to do anything. I have upgraded and confirmed the issue on my iPhone now that I’m home in the USA as well.

Now the good news- I believe I have discovered the issue, and have a fix in testing on my device now that looks good. I will be testing this with a couple of people over the next few days and then submitting it to the App Store. Hang in there, I promise you’ll be able to play normally again very soon! :)

Note this quick-turn update will not contain any of the new fancy graphics and other stuff I have in progress, it is just a minor revision to v1.61 for this bug and a couple of small performance tweaks.

******* UPDATE *******
Rogue Touch Version 1.61 was submitted to Apple on 9/25/12. If all goes well they should review it and have it go live next week! This update fixes the iOS 6 “Descend Stairs” gameplay bug (and other popup menu items), and includes a few new performance tweaks.

New Rogue Touch and Spirit Hunter Mineko information and photos are coming up next!

Rogue Revisited

March 4th, 2012

Its been far too long since I have spoken up here… time to change that!

Rogue Touch turned 3 years old last month. When I look back in the source code, and especially when I play it now, it shows signs of age. The little things that my love of the game blinded me to have become more obvious and annoying. I’m still proud of what I accomplished, especially since I’d never completed a game before or developed anything for iOS. But it could be better.

Visually, I wanted Rogue Touch to evoke images of the Atari ST and Amiga days of Rogue, just slightly more modern. I accomplished that fairly well, but in a fit of nostalgia I have alienated a lot of younger gamers who have never played the old games. Everything in the App Store is judged by its appearance… is the icon pretty? Yes, well let me look at the screenshots… which is probably followed with “Ugh, programmer art!” and a lost sale ;)

But lets be honest with ourselves. A pretty coat of paint is not the only thing that Rogue Touch needs. There is a lot that can be done to the user interface and gameplay to improve the experience. I was happy with my UI solutions at the time, it took some serious thought and planning to boil down the large keyboard command list to something that was more playable than hair-pulling on a touch screen. I patted myself on the back for the clever fast-play implementation that allowed your little rogue to run down hallways to the next point of interest without the tedium of directing him one step at a time. However, it still takes more taps than it should to get things done at times, the popup menu can be annoying, inventory management could be better, exploration and *searching* need to be streamlined… This is no longer the Rogue of the 1980s. It needs to be even more playable while on the go!

To address the visual quality I have been getting some professional artwork assistance, and now I have a set of monster tiles with a lot of detail and personality. To address the performance, UI, and gameplay enhancements I am taking some of the core routines from RT and transplanting them into a completely new Xcode project and new engine.

With all of my planned changes, I need to decide whether this is even still an “update” to Rogue Touch, or is it more rightfully a sequel, a brand new app? Some people may strongly dislike their nostalgia taken away from them with a large update, while others may be offended that they have to buy a new app to get the slick new visuals, UI, and gameplay changes. Another important issue- currently Rogue Touch is playable on devices back to iOS 3.0, whereas this “New Rogue” will only be compatible with iOS 5.0 and newer, so people with older devices will be left out.

I am very interested to hear your thoughts, please share them in the comments!

( PS – Mineko is still in development, I’ll be talking about her more next time! :) )

Long Time, No Objective-C…

August 8th, 2011

As the summer approached I was full of hope, game code was expected to flow abundantly from my fingertips, whole worlds were going to be created!

Immediately after WWDC, things fell apart. I had to focus on my industrial consulting business when a number of projects decided to align like the planets for installation in July. Working seven days a week, and long hours to boot, meant there was no time for game design. I won’t even touch upon issues in my personal life, but they have had an impact as well.

Its a shame that the time-out happened, but it is a necessary evil. The completion of these projects over the past 6+ weeks has brought in more income than the last 2+ years that Rogue Touch has been on the market! Without the money obtained by my consulting business, I cannot work on games. Someday I hope to transition to my older games sustaining me and funding new games, but for now I have to lead a double-life.

Now that my schedule has finally opened up a bit, I have recently returned to the world of Xcode, Objective-C, and OpenGL for the first time in a few months. It feels good. It turns out that taking a substantial time away from Mineko and Rogue Touch code is a mixed blessing… I have had time to forget how some of it works, even though I wrote the code! The flip side is that I’ve been able to rethink past assumptions, find hidden bugs as I re-read code, and improve the foundations.

To reiterate some goals:
1) Rogue Touch 2.0 is still “coming soon”, and is shaping up to be a much more dramatic update than I’d first conceived. It will be interesting to see how it is received by old and new players alike.

2) Spirit Hunter Mineko is deep in production, with thousands of frames of animation, and many thousands of lines of code completed so far. It is my sincere hope to release her before the holiday season rush this year.

3) “Unnamed Tactical TBS”, which I’ve barely mentioned around the internets, will begin to advance at a faster rate as soon as Mineko hits beta-testing. Don’t expect to see this arrive until spring 2012 at the earliest ;)

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