Archive for the ‘diary’ Category

Level 1 complete…

July 24, 2009

I hope you’ve found this little game development diary useful. It’s been a great learning curve for me as designer/producer. Big shout out to the rest of the Babe on a Beam team – Martin Simpson (exec producer and ideas man extraordinaire), Jim Terhorst (Tech Director), Jeremy Bondock (Art) and Basil Hogios (Sound).

Now we need you all to go out and buy the game so that we can afford to keep adding new levels. At which point the blogging continues…

Spread the word!

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Babe on a beam on AppStore

July 10, 2009

Babe on a beam is on the iPhone AppStore. Yay! Now to start thinking about the next release. Check it out, tell your friends, and let us know what you’d like to see!

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Apple administrivia

July 9, 2009

The good news first…Babe on a beam v1.0 passed Apple’s review process first time. Yay!

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The bad news… still not available on the AppStore. The company’s tax forms still waiting to be processed manually by Apple. *groan*

Apple requires developers to complete a Paid Applications Contract which (helpfully) does not materialise until you submit an application. After submitting your first paid app, check the iTunes Connect ‘Contracts, Tax, & Banking Information’ page to see what additional paperwork is in order.

Australian developers have the additional pleasure of submitting ABN and GST registration documents for manual review. It seems that Australian developers cannot offer paid apps without being registered for GST. That wasn’t an issue for us but it does seem like an unnecessary overhead for small developers earning less than $75,000.

Alpha tomorrow

May 12, 2009

Babe on a beam will be available for alpha testing tomorrow Wednesday 13 May 11am EST.

Send us your UDIDs to get in on the action.

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One of the hardest parts of the this project is working out scope. More and more ideas are flooding in but at the end of the day, we’ve only got budget to release one level on spec. The audience will decide how far this game goes…

After a few uncertain days when our main development box died, we got quickly back on track this morning. Lots of things lining up for the beta release but I think we have enough to get out to testers with. It’s only a simple game after all and the target audience is probably not you lot! {;-)

Provisioning pain

May 6, 2009

Went through the tedious but necessary pain barrier today and yesterday getting my head around Adhoc distribution of the game. iPhone app distribution is anything but user friendly. What a ridiculously convoluted process!

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It took me a long while to realise that to build an app for distribution outside of the Apple iPhone App Store¬† you need to use a Distribution Provisioning Profile (not a Developer Provisioning Profile) which does not allow the app to run directly from XCode. I don’t know if anyone else out there found this as confusing as I did but it certainly chewed up a few days. Generic error messages like “Unexpected error (0xE8000001)” really didn’t help either. A crucial missing piece of the puzzle involving creating a Code Signing Entitlements file does not appear in the Apple Development guide at all. The blogosphere is full of frustrated developers complaining about the process of signing their apps.¬† I can only imagine how many more apps there would be if the process for deployment was any easier. I was ready to explode with frustration a few hours ago. Now at least I can feel a huge sense of relief, if not accomplishment. It is just a software build after all. Back to the game itself.. And here’s hoping that our little fella doesn’t fall foul of Apple’s somewhat arbitrary content approval policies.

A day or two past our original alpha milestone, we have a couple of Adhoc test apps to play with. Anyone who wants to participate, register your device and we will be in touch.

Design tweaks

April 27, 2009

20090427_babeBig happy face on baby and big happy face on me as the most complex part of the game slots into place – the failure sequence when our character loses its balance and falls off. That little green bit under the baby’s but is nothing rude, just the geometry actually being balanced in the game.

Jim has rearranged the code to make it a lot easier for us to lay out animated sequences as well. Whetting my appetite to get Sanctuary running on this engine.

Next stop – the GUI…

Approaching alpha

April 23, 2009

We have now locked all the art assets for the alpha version of the game. Hoping to have everything in place by the end of the week so that we can then focus on scoring and such-like. Last post I mentioned our new Animation Tester tool. This is starting to make a real difference to the pipeline. All this is is a separate project, made in Unity 2.5, that the team artist Jeremy can open in his PC copy of Unity. Unity iPhone as yet still is Mac-only and we started to find places in the codebase where iPhone hooks would result in not being able to play through scenes on PC.

By introducing a new Unity project as a staging area for art, we’ve given ourselves a lot more flexibility. We can now preview all animations in situ without having to trawl through the game. Next up it would be good to be able to preview each ‘shot’ (cut sequence) comprising more than one animation but we may not get around to this in the near future. Hardly any shots in this game to speak of.

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BTW Interesting to see that Unity has blogged that Subversion and Perforce support is on its roadmap. We’re using the Unity asset server at the moment, powered by PostgreSQL, and no dramas but I would feel more comfortable entrusting version control to a dedicated provider.

Finally, quick plug to Firemint down in Melbourne who have scored a huge hit with the highly addictive iPhone game Flight Control. A great example of a good idea well executed without too much fuss. Inspiring stuff. The small print is that the developers have been in business since 1999 which only goes to prove that overnight success is rarely that.

Animation Testing

April 23, 2009

The outcome of this week’s problems importing animations has been a pause to look back whether we did enough testing of our pipeline. In all the excitement of getting the core game mechanic underway, I think it’s fair to say that I ignored the devil in the detail. Not only were we never getting precisely the correct animations playing in Unity but we didn’t plan for testing precision. After a few hours of going around the houses (easy enough in a small team) we have now got a rudimentary ‘Animation Tester’ scene going in which it is easy to preview any and all animations in Unity independently from gameplay. Our little game doesn’t require anything too complex in terms of bespoke tools but the scripting support for auto-generation of scenes and builds is pretty impressive. Mind whirring as to how to take advantage of this for future projects… but really need to finish this one first.

Animations import gotcha

April 15, 2009

A few days slip by and then suddenly it’s over a week since my last post… Today’s work was all about trying to smooth out our animation pipeline. Due to the nature of the game (balancing a character with the iPhone’s accelerometer) we didn’t notice at first that animations were not being imported properly.

What at first seemed to be a minor issue turned into something more worrying – Unity seeming to add spurious keyframes to the FBX animations exported from Maya. Advice via the forums suggested that we needed to look at using an earlier FBX exporter but even with a 2006 version the same problem occured. What seems to have fixed the problem though was separating each animation into separate files. Initially we had grouped multiple animations into FBX files and cut these up in Unity. Doing the slicing in Maya seems to have done the trick. *touch wood*.

Waiting for Colorado to wake up to confirm this.

Babe walks down beam

April 3, 2009

Using Unity’s remoting feature, I’ve just tested the core game mechanic, balancing a baby on a beam. Very satisfying end to the week. Still some issues, principally that the iPhone build crashes almost immediately but on the desktop it’s looking pretty good. Animation blending works very nicely and physics takes over when you lean too far to the left or the right.

We changed the pipeline today after realising that we were ending up with redundant meshes in the project. I have a feeling that the instability on the actual device is related to the current size of the build – 30Mb.

I’ve set a deadline of Tues morning for our first complete build of all components. At that point I’ll have a better perspective on what additional challenges we might need to incorporate to make the initial release memorable. That said, I’m feeling pretty good about the project given that everyone starts smiling when they take over the controls. That can’t be too bad can it?