OUYA @GameLab

I write an article on the new gaming console OUYA today on the GameLab Freiburg website. I asked the OUYA team some questions and got answers from founder and CEO Julie Uhrmann.

I think the console will be a great thing for the gaming market. It definitely looks great and if it really is only as big as a Rubik’s Cube (~ 6 cm³ / 2,5 in³) that’s incredible.

Here’s a virtual size comparison:

Hier mal ein virtueller Vergleich:

You can still pre-order the OUYA on Kickstarter till Wednesday.

RaspberryPi arrives!

While the cake may be a lie, the Rasperry Pi isn’t. My RasPi arrived today and it’s looking great.

The RasPi is a micro format computer with an ARM processor, such as can be found in smart phones and tablet computers. It has an HDMI output for FullHD video playback, a LAN-jack for network connection, two USB-ports and an SD card slot for primary storage. Its main advantage over similar micro computers is its size (see photo) and its price: only $35. Naturally, that does not include a SD card or a power supply, but most smart phone chargers (with a micro USB cable) can be used as a power supply, just as long as they have a 5V / 700mA output. My Pre3 charger works perfectly.

Here are the full specs:

SoC Broadcom BCM2835 (CPU, GPU, DSP, and SDRAM)
CPU: 700 MHz ARM1176JZF-S core (ARM11 family)
GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV, OpenGL ES 2.0, 1080p30 h.264/MPEG-4 AVC high-profile decoder
Memory (SDRAM): 256 Megabytes (MiB)
Video outputs: Composite RCA, HDMI
Audio outputs: 3.5 mm jack, HDMI
Onboard storage: SD, MMC, SDIO card slot
10/100 Ethernet RJ45 onboard network
Storage via SD/ MMC/ SDIO card slot

There’s a bunch of Linux distributions already adapted for the Raspberry Pi. Since the CPU is ARM based, Windows does not run on the Pi, but who needs Windows?

A wiki with lots of infos on how to start and programming examples can be found here.

I will start with Puppi, since I’ve got some experience with Puppy Linux. I will also try out the Debian based Raspbian which can run a nice Gnome 2 ( MATE) desktop and has lots of packages ready.

I will keep you updated with the results of my first tests.

First of all I’ll go and build a LEGO case – this design is definitely something I can improve!

To catch a bug with Mantis

In order to document and track the status of my game Illuminum online and to create a basis for finding and removing problems I wanted to use a bug tracking system.

The best web based bug tracking software that I know is Trac. It features subversion access and an integrated wiki and lots of other neat smaller features. Sadly Trac is programmed with Python and since most simple webspace packages, like the one this blog is hosted on, do not offer Python support I needed to switch to an alternative solution.

Mantis Bug Tracker is that alternative software. It is PHP based and thus runs on nearly any basic webspace. It’s really easy to install and there’s a mobile version, Mantis Touch, available.

Mantis offers the usual features for reporting an issue. It can be assigned to a user and is coloured depending on its status. As soon as a bug is fixed or a feature completed, it is entered into the changelog automatically. You can also create a roadmap by making future versions of your project and assigning features to them. Uploading documents is also a nice feature that allows documentation and major updates to be integrated into the system.

Managing several projects is possible but can be a bit confusing since all projects are shown on the mantis start page and can only be filtered via a small drop down menu at the side.

The system has performed well so far. I’m excited to see how well I’ll be working with Mantis and if there are are any major drawbacks. I’m looking forward to all bugs in my game  found and entered by others.

You can find the bug tracker for Illuminum here. To report issues you can log in with the user name guestreport and the password illuminum.

 

Why Unity rocks!

It’s high time I write some lines about the game engine Unity 3D. I’ve been working with Unity since October 2011 and have gotten to know its strengths, which by far outweigh the downsides. Here’s an introduction to what Unity is and why you should use it for game development.

HISTORY

Development on Unity began as early as 2001, in 2005 Unity 1 and in 2007 Unity 2 were released. 2008 brought export function to the Wii and iOS. The breakthrough came in 2009 with the first free version giving everybody access to the engine. Version 3 saw the rise of Unity to a trend in game development in 2010, right now there are over half a million developers working with Unity.

Advantages

What puts Unity apart from other game engines like the CryEngine or the UnrealEngine? For one thing it is incredibly beginner-friendly. The program interface is modern, clean and intuitive. Several introductory tutorials make it easy to get accustomed to the program and its abilities. Since Unity works with UnityScript, a close relative to JavaScript, programming access is also easy. At the same time professionals can use C# or Boo to develop their games.

A second great advantage is portability. Unity games can be published directly on almost all available gaming platforms. From Windows and MacOS to the gaming consoles PlayStation3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii down to mobile platforms iOS and Android and any web broweser via the Unity web Player and (since version 3.5) also Flash. Linux- and Google Native Client support are in the making. And that’s all direct export! No mucking about with long and costly porting. This extreme range opens the whole gaming market to developers.

Game development with Unity is fun, especially because the huge community is very helpful and thousands of code pieces are available when you’re stuck.

For independent game developers, costs ale low, with a pro license only costing $ 1500, including lifetime upgrades.

What can I do with Unity?

You can develop any kind of game with Unity, from 2D jump and run games to 3D ego-shooters. However, for the latter it is probably a better idea to us a specialized game engine like the CryEngine. There are a couple of ‘big’ games developed with Unity out there, but the mass of Unity games falls into the category of small and casual games. Probably because they’re mostly developed by single persons or small groups.

Unity doesn’t end with game development. Due to its enormous range of platforms, especially the Internet via Flash and the UnityPlayer, new possibilities arise that were hitherto only possible via 3D modules for Flash. Interactive 3D presentations and virtual shopping malls are just the start of what’s going to come.

Examples

An excellent game developed with Unity is Rochard, a space adventure by Recoil Games. To see what’s possible look at the results of the competition ‘Flash-in-a-Flash’.

A list of games developed with Unity can be found here: http://unity3d.com/gallery/made-with-unity/game-list

Free start to game development

Unity is available in a basic version for free. This version is perfect for learning game development. It can do almost everything that the Pro version can do, except for advanced effects like shadows.

What are you waiting for? Go download Unity and start developing!

 

CSS3 test

An interesting tool for web developers can be found on css3test.com. The testing site, developed by Lea Verou, checks the CSS3-support of the browser. The resulting percentage value isn’t really of much use, since lots of css3 are still experimental, but it is quite interesting to compare browsers. It’s quite useful for checking which css3 styling options your own browser supports, though.

The scores on my system: Chrome 17: 55%; FF 10: 52%; Chrome 16: 52%; Opera 11: 50%;  IE9: 33%

Another nice site is FindmebyIP, where you can find a comparison chart created from several thousand browser tests.

Update [12-03-2012]: just visited the site with my Pre3 and the WebOS-browser scored an amazing 64%!

Free Unity license for mobile devices

Until April 8th, the Unity3D-licenses for Android and iOS are free! The two free licenses, that normally cost 800$, are the basic versions that have the same features as the basic version for PC/Mac.

To get the free licenses you need to register yourself at the Unity store and buy both for 0$. Then you’ll get the License key which you can enter when starting Unity for the first time (e.g. after upgrading to 3.5) or in Unity itself under Help > Enter Serial Number. And then you’re all set to develop for mobile devices.

Before you all start developing games for your iPhone and iPod: remember, it’s Apple. Of course you can only develop for Apple devices on apple systems. So you’ll need MacOS to export from Unity to iOS because Apple’s development tool Xcode only runs on MacOS. People on the Unity Forum say that although it might be technically possible to have iOS publishing on Windows it would be pretty useless since it would lack important features for iOS system integration and you can only upload to the AppStore from Mac anyway.

You should get your free license key whether you plan on developing for iOS or not. You never know if you might need it in half a year. Did I mention it’s free?

Never change a running system; or: WordPress 3.3 *!&%*’#!**!

Seeing a software update the first thoughts that come to mind are security patches, performance improvements and added features. All good reasons to upgrade a system.

WordPress 3.3 was installed quickly and easily without any problems, just as usual.

What are the changes from 3.2 to 3.3? All the main menu items in the left side menu are minimized by default. I don’t like it, but it makes sense for smaller screens, especially when the menu is reduced to the icons.

What else? The new control panel features of the top panel are actually quite useful.

But then the problems begin: the editor has been changed. All the media buttons have been combined into one. Since they weren’t in the way at all quite a superfluous gesture. The real problem is that my flickr photalbum plugin button that is situated next to the media button doesn’t work anymore.

Much worse: qTranslate is broken. A note appears throughout the dashboard:

“The qTranslate editor was deactivated, since it hasn’t been tested with this WordPress version. -blabla about security and then – click here to reactivate.”

Great! Let’s klick the link. What? a non functioning Javascript? ****!

And now? An updated version of the plugin isn’t available. Seem like I’m done blogging in two languages for the time being. I’d really like to know how many other plugins stop working properly after this upgrade. I’m left wondering why it seems impossible for software developers to incorporate backward compatibility into new versions.

Its the same with Firefox but there we at least have the nightly tester tool where the user can re-enable most plugins. THat kind of interim solution would be great for WordPress.

Or maybe give developers two weeks time to update their plugin before enforcing a new standard?

/rant. Let’s see if I need to fall back to 3.2.

 Update: 20.12. qTranslate works again, thanks to an update. I’ll have to replace flickr photoalbum, though.

 

SSDs go Mainstream

Large capacity SSDs have been available for the industry for some time now but anyone who can’t afford or does not want to pay huge amounts for a fast hard disk had to content with a small SSD for the system and a large HDD for the data.

This setup works fine, but not as well as a full SSD-System and for Laptops whih usually do not have the ability to install two hard disks it was a major problem. SSDs were too expensive or too small to work efficiently.

Now, OCZ has released a consumer SSD with 1TB capacity, a milestone that still has its price: 1300$. Manufacturing large capacity SSDs does, however, also influence the smaller SSDs: they get cheaper.

The price difference between HDDs and SSDs is decreasing fast. Price per gigabyte is already below the 1-Euro mark. As a comparison: traditional HDD disk space costs between 3 cent (2TB drive) and 12 cent (250GB drive) per gigabyte. Still a huge difference but if you look at how fast prices are falling it doesn’t seem so bad anymore: One year ago, a OCZ Vertex 2 240GB cost 560 €, now you can get it for less than half of that, for 260 €.

I just put a 240 GB Vertex 2 into my Laptop. That’s ample space for daily work, even with large amounts of data from video and photo editing. No more endless waiting for the system or programs to start. When I need more storage (for archiving videos, music etc) this is outsourced to an external USB 3 hard drive.

My Desktop has a setup with a 80GB Intel X25-M SSD for the system and programs and a couple of HDDs for my data. This SSDs is now available for only 120 € and the speed increase is available to almost everyone. SSDs are ready for the masses.

The software is also ready. Windows 7 automatically recognizes SSDs and makes the most important modifications like shutting down defragmentation.

Right now,HDD prices are rising because of the flood in Thailand which resulted Western Digital shutting down their factories there – possibly for months. I look forward to seeing the impact of this catastrophe on SSD prices. Will they rise because disk space demand rises? Or will they fall because the SSD manufacturers see their chance of targeting the masses?

Official OCZ Press release