define('DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true); Video Games – unFocus Projects – Kevin Newman and Ken Newman

Quint Dice update – Facebook and profile

An update on Quint Dice. I turned on all the Facebook registration and login stuff that’s actually been done for a while, but I had off for a few reasons. Users may now sign up with their Facebook account, to make it easier to get started. Adding Facebook support has been one of the bigger time sinks in this project. Here’s a list of what’s done and not, so you’ll see why.


  • Facebook accounts – done!
  • Facebook link accounts (if you have a password based account, you can add Facebook to it, then log in with your FB account in the future).

Not Done:

  • Facebook Canvas – as I mentioned in an earlier post, it looks like ads are a problem within Canvas. I still have to figure out what to do about that.
  • Facebook notifications – The setting is available, so you may opt-out (it’s on by default) but I haven’t set it up to send notifications yet. It looks like I need to have a return URL within a Canvas app to make it work, but I’m not certain, and need to read the FB docs more carefully.
  • Native Facebook in Cordova for Android and iOS. This is turning into an endless headache. There are at least 3 Meteor packages that promise to do this, but each needs a Cordova plugin that I just can’t seem to build (a third one that I’m not sure how to install). I had hoped this would be much easier (and I’m actually pretty sure I once had it working), but it’s costing me a lot of time, so I’m probably going to let it lie for a while.
  • A user who registers with Facebook will have no username – I need to make sure they enter one, since that’s the primary way we do user discovery ATM.
  • No friends list, which is an important feature in my mind – starting games and inviting folks to play.
  • Account merging – if a user signs up one way (password) then signs up again another way (Facebook) then wants to link their accounts, they should be able to. There is a Meteor package (or 2) for this, but I have to implement some glue for it.

Other updates in this round are better styling for forms, and the ability to set other profile data, such as your email address (useful if you forget your password!). You can also change your username if you want, and opt-out of push notifications on mobile.

More soon!

unBrix Alpha in Android Marketplace!!

My first Android app is in the market place! Built with Adobe AIR, unBrix Alpha is a quick take on the classic breakout style game. This is more of a “lite” game at this point (hence the “Alpha” suffix), but it is already more complete than many of the other Arkanoid clones in iOS App Store. There also seems to be some last minute performance problems on the Android version. :-/ I guess that’s what I get for only testing on an iPhone for most of the development. I’ll have fixes to that soon. I’m pretty sure it’s related to the scaleMode I set in Flash – the problem is if I set that the faster mode – NO_SCALE – it’s way too small on most Android devices. I’ll probably need to add some manual sizing based on measurement. Of course non of this was needed on the iPhone version.

Download unBrix Alpha and let me know what you think! I’d provide a link, but I don’t know how.

Update: I Nerfed the framerate a bit to get it to run a little smoother. I think the problem will be solved better by setting NO_SCALE, but I’ll have to do that another time (probably when I get to iPad port!). I also fixed the red line, and the icon too (I don’t know that didn’t show up last time). There is a report of the paddle jumping to one side when some users remove their finger from the screen. I haven’t been able to reproduce, but please let me know if this happens to you! Here is a link to unBrix Alpha on appbrain (it isn’t showing the update yet).

Update 2: I switched to CPU rendering, because it seems as though GPU rendering is just slower on Android devices than CPU rendering – at least in this kind of game. Anyway, this solved a lot of problems, including missing text and missing affects. I also had to set a fullScreenRect to match the original intended size of the game (iPhone 3Gs size). Doing these two things cleaned up most of the performance issues and graphics glitches. I’ll work on getting the remainder of the basics in place, like proper shutdowns – so this doesn’t run in the background like it does now (didn’t have to worry about that for iOS!).

Flash iPhone Game at Silky 60FPS on 3GS

Well, it’s only a tech demo at the moment. I’ve been playing with this Breakout like game for a while, trying to learn the ins and outs of Flash mobile development – particularly as it relates to performance. I now have the unBrix demo running at close to 60FPS (59.1) – smooth as silk.

This won’t run at 60FPS on Android Flash Player plugin in the browser (or Firefox on Mac!) – this post is about the iPhone build – but here’s the web version to look at anyway.

Here is a blurry video of the thing running as a native iPhone app on a 3GS (I smoothed out the choppy splash transition in a later build by setting the BG element with cacheAsBitmapMatrix):

The most important thing was to make sure GPU acceleration was working, and to learn what things will impact performance in that area.

It turns out, there are some important differences with how GPU accelerated Flash woks compared with the traditional software renderer. In the software Flash renderer keeping your display list shallow, and sparse (using addChild/removeChild a lot) or avoiding the display list completely (by writing to BitmapData – as the Flixel game engine does) is a key optimization for performance. This is how the exploding bunny video demo is done, and why it’s so fast.

My current theory is that on GPU accelerated content (even on desktop) the reverse is true. You want to avoid CPU/system RAM to GPU/video RAM updates as much as possible – which means avoiding BitmapData updates which cause the player to upload a new texture to the GPU VRAM with every update. Because I don’t have access to the internals of the Flash Player architecture, I can’t be sure, but I think the bottle neck comes from clogging up the lanes between the CPU and GPU, and all stressing all three areas of the rendering pipeline (CPU, GPU and the bus) as they juggle around objects in memory. The key observation this conclusion is based on is the large performance impact addChild and removeChild has on the framerate. So I relentlessly avoid that in my iPhone Flash development – I precache everything, and don’t mess with the display list. This is also one reason why filters (which operate on a BitmapData representation of the DisplayObject you apply them to) are not recommended on mobile content.

Anyway, hopefully I can turn this into a full app for iPhone in a reasonable timeframe. ūüôā

3D Gaming is Awesome!

After I watched Avatar in 3D, I became curious about PC gaming in 3D. So I did some research on the subject. There are three kinds of home 3D solutions on the market today (and a few more in theaters); active shutter glasses, and polarized LCD monitors are the two full color technologies. Each have their advantages and drawbacks, which I may blog about in more detail in the future (if you want more info, I suggest reading the xbit labs reviews of the various technologies).

I wanted to try to find a solution that did not require the layout of hundreds of dollars just to test out how well (or not) the 3D of these systems actually worked, so I wondered if there was a way to test these out, with minimal cost – sure enough, both available 3D graphics drivers support anaglyph mode to preview the tech. The third option anaglyph – you may remember this trick from super bowl half time commercials, and cereal box addins.¬†First up is nVidia’s solution is slightly

For nVidia 3D Vision Discover, you’ll need to make sure you have a beefy enough nVidia video card – ATi users are out of luck. As luck would have it, I have a supported card, an 8800GT (the lowest end card supported!). To turn it on,¬†follow the instructions on¬†nVidia’s 3D Vision Setup page. Make sure you have both the correct version of display drivers, and the 3D Vision drivers.

If you don’t have the correct glasses colors (as I didn’t – I used magenta/green glasses backwards from Monster’s Vs. Aliens DVD – eventually I replaced one lense with a red one from a children’s spy kit I got from Friendly’s) it may be a little¬†tricky to enable the affect in nVidida’s drivers if you don’t have the correct colored glasses, since they don’t actually let you turn it on without testing you first. Just guess at what the answers are and press back if you get it wrong – there are not that many combinations of answers, and you’ll eventually get it right. ¬†Once you do that, you’ll have an option to turn this all on in the Stereoscopic 3D section of your NVIDIA Control Panel (right click desktop to get there), or use the CTRL + T shortcut to turn it on.

The nVidia drivers work amazingly well on Valve Source engine based games – like Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2. In some parts of Left 4 Dead 2, such as the sugar cane fields on the return trip level of Heavy Rain, it may even give you a bit of an advantage, since you can see the depth of the plants – it’s much easier to see where you are going. They did less well in older UT3 engine based games, like Bioshock, where you can see¬†noticeable¬†gaps around some objects where the fog effects just don’t line up correctly in both eyes (it’s shifted to the right or left, for each eye respectively), and certain shadows are lost. Newer UT3 games, like Batman .. Arkham Asylum, which claims out of the box support for nVidia 3D Vision, and Avatar, which has 3D support that must be enabled in game, look phenomenal. (For Avatar you need to set nVidia stereoscopic view on in the driver first and then the game to get it to work). Other Ubisoft games like¬†Assassin’s¬†Creed and Prince of Persia also look great.

Another option is to use the iZ3D 3D drivers – which work with any 3D card, including ATi Radeon. iZ3D sells a line of specialized monitors that actually polarize two images (similar to how many 3D movie screens work), and use passive glasses to filter out each image from the correct eye, thus presenting two different images to each eye. You don’t need a 3D monitor to use the drivers though, as they have a free anaglyph mode built in (among other modes). These drivers seem to incur a greater performance hit than the nVidia glasses – but despite many posts (seemingly little more than assumptions) I’ve found on forums and blog posts, I actually found them more compatible than nVidia’s drivers, especially in Bioshock, which is downright amazing in 3D (despite missing many¬†shadows). These drivers don’t start out with the modest 3D settings as the nVidia’s more out of the box settings, but once you tweak these (there are more options for tweaking, and each game starts out with a tweaking guide overlay to help you out), you should be up and running.

The best part of the iZ3D drivers is that you can actually change the color settings of the anaglyph mode (apparently you used to be able to do that for nVidia, but they removed that ability). This is fantastic, because it means you can get all the colors, with less ghosting that you’d miss if you don’t use the correct glasses with the nVidia drivers. Most anaglyphs actually separate 3 colors, not just two – one channel (red) to one eye and the other two channels (green + blue = cyan) to the other. In my case, I am using green and magenta (blue + red). The fact that blue is being split to the wrong eye is why you get ghosting with the nvidia drivers and the Monsters Vs. Aliens (or Coraline) glasses.

Here’s a quick guide to change the anaglyph colors for iZ3D drivers. First find the correct config file – for me (Windows 7) it was:

C:UsersAll UsersiZ3D Driver

I can’t confirm these two, but they helped me find the location in Windows 7 –¬†from the iZ3D forums:

XP: ‚ÄúDocuments and SettingsAll UsersApplication DataiZ3D DriverLanguage‚ÄĚ

Vista: ‚ÄúProgramDataiZ3D DriverLanguage‚ÄĚ

Once you have opened the Config.xml file in one of those folders, you can edit the following items to make it green/magenta:

[cc lang=’xml’]


In case you are interested, here is a quick key for what these values actually mean – or at least 3 of them – it’s matrix math which is hard ;-):

m00=”R” m01=”0″ m02=”0″
m10=”0″ m11=”G” m12=”0″
m20=”0″ m21=”0″ m22=”B

There are bugs and drawbacks with each solution – most games were not made with 3D in mind, so this can be a bit of a hack. Some games are missing shadows or have misaligned affects (like Bioshock), and I couldn’t get OpenGL games to work at all with either driver (despite settings for it in iZ3D). Other games seem to perform flawlessly (like Left 4 Dead, Batman or Avatar). Another big drawback of these systems is the cost – full color 3D setups can be pretty expensive $300-$400 for the monitor, and another $200 for the glasses (and an additional $150 for each pair you want to add for group movie watching). The iZ3D solution (and Zalman makes a compatible monitor) are getting cheaper, but are still quite pricey at around $300 for the monitor and cheaper passive glasses (with no other special requirements/costs, except some kind of reasonably strong video card).

The affect is pretty convincing for me though, and since I already have a nice 120Hz monitor, and a decent enough graphics card, I’ll be adding nVidia Shutter glasses to my birthday list. ūüôā

unFocus.Games – Tetris clone

I made a promise on someone else’s blog to post the code for the Tetris clone I made a while back, probably in fatigue induced delirium, a little bit ago, so here it is in a new Google Code project called unFocus.Games.¬†The post on bit-101 post was about game architecture. While developing the code for the clone, I did play with concepts around architecture quite a bit. I also played with learning about Flash 10 features – adding PixelBender filters, and even having an Ogg Vorbis based soundtrack for a while (tried both the HaXe decoder, and the Alchemy decoder).¬†I took them both out for now though, as well as some of the more unorthodox uses of Actionscript 3.0 I had in there – I was experimenting, and besides, Flash CS4’s compiler is a bit more finicky than Flash CS3’s was. One of these days I’ll get around to blogging about some of that stuff.

The Tetris game has an event driven engine under the graphics. I wanted it to feel close to the old NES and GameBoy version of the game I remember as a kid, and didn’t want the animation stuff to get in the way of that. The text version of the game in the demo I posted is almost a raw dump of the engine data. The field is a 2D array of 1s and 0s (looking to learn bit shifting and similar concepts at some point, by converting that to a ByteArray of ints). I also did the pieces (tetrads) as 2D array representations of bitmaps at one point, but didn’t feel like working out the rotation math, so I ported a pre-calculated coordinate version of the tetrads from an old Actionscript 1.0 version of a basic tetris game I once wrote.

Quick note about the code – I used TweenLite to do some of the quick animations, but I did not include that in the repository. You’ll need to grab a copy of that yourself, and add it to your class path to compile the source code as it is. At some point I plan to remove that either entirely or replace it with Tweener (because of the licensing).

In regards to game architecture, I don’t know if it follows any particular pattern (MVC seems to be quite popular these days – can’t talk about software design without hearing of that).¬†Anyway, the code is probably far from efficient, as that hasn’t necessarily¬†been a goal as I wrote it, and it’s far from finished, but there are some fun bits in there. Feel free to take a look, and share any thoughts. ūüôā