Coding in a Van

About two weeks ago the first episode of Indie Van Game Jam appeared on the internet. Four months prior to this, I spent about four days cramped in a van awkwardly hunched over a keyboard and a screen typing furiously. Back problems five years from now?

In this shot I am using my stylus like a mouse, holding my monitor, keyboard is on my lap. How NOT to code productively.

In this shot I am using my stylus like a mouse, holding my monitor, keyboard is on my lap. How NOT to code productively.

 

Ergonomics!

Okay, so how was it? First of all, I was using a Microsoft Surface Pro, a Logitech Illuminated Keyboard, and a Microsoft Wedge Mouse. (The illuminated part is kind of important if you’ve seen the episode.) As far as lugging stuff around goes, the Surface was great. It was light and it fit in this tiny over-the-shoulder bag that I have. As far as ergonomics? That kickstand is good for one thing, and one thing only. Being on a table. I cannot stress enough that the first version of the Surface Pro has a kickstand that feels too flimsy for laps. My set up ended being non-nonsensical to everyone else at first. I had the mouse on the arm rest (but it kept falling off.) I had the Surface closest to me (but kept accidentally touching the screen.) I had the keyboard on my lap behind the Surface (but had to hover awkwardly over it.)

Awkwardly setup for coding.

Awkwardly setup for coding.

Yeah. What is even going on here? The mouse was honestly the hardest part about the setup. Have lap. Will type. The mouse however, you really need some flat space, an un-affordable premium in the van. That’s why I kept the stylus behind my ear because eventually I felt like it was easier than using the mouse. Except, of course, Unity doesn’t seem to accept the touch screen input all the time. Blech! So this was the main set up until we stopped in at a Wal-Mart and scored some behind-the-seat tray tables that resemble the ones from an airplane.

The Code!

For our engine of choice we used Unity. We had this crazy idea that we would use a different engine each episode as a unique flair for each episode. Ha ha ha. Oh how naive we were. While I had already been comfortable with Unity, neither Zeb nor Diego was at the same place. This made me remember the learning curve I had when I was new to the engine and quickly curtailed that whole engine switching idea. It did mean that we could now focus on the things that Unity does really well.

The tool-set is already pretty spectacular. I use C#, since I used it pretty extensively on the tools on SW:TOR. The design pattern, the Decorator, is simple enough to game jam. Everything starts with a game object and you add whatever behaviors you need (and, hopefully, it ends when you throw in a giant hack.) Even if each hack is carefully crafted to complete a feature in the next hour and lovingly labeled with a comment and prefaced with HACK_. (Because you never know when someone is going to look at your code and think that you’re just terrible and not lazy.)

Unfortunately, for a large subset of the features, the code ends up being fairly inflexible. The price of speed. A lot of questions about the future of features will come up and they will have been decided hours ago. If checks that cover up Console errors. Logic based on animation. Two or three bools (at first) that replace a state machine. Magic numbers!

You get what you have time for right?

Final tally?

30,234 lines of code among 7 games. (An average of 4,319 lines per game.) The largest, “It’s Not Me, It’s You”, clocked in at 9,779 lines while our smallest, “Sailor’s Warning”, only tallied 627.

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Terrible Drawings from GDC 2014

San Francisco, California. 2014. The Game Developers Conference was in full swing. I attended talks and drew really crummy drawings.

A talk about building a Brand from a Rovio guy and Jason Della Rocca. It was amazing how they kept offering different opinions on the same thing. (Also, I tried to draw stubble. Failed hard.)

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There was an impressive talk from a few guys on AI Visualization. There was both an external app and an in-game visualizer. The demos were great.

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Also, I learned a bunch of random acronyms about XBone. Seriously. I learned Win32 no longer just meant 32 bit. WinRT stands for RunTime and has nothing to do with the Windows RT OS.

confusion

 

Overall, there were many amazing talks. The networking was invaluable. I met a lot of great people. 10 / 10. A++. Would buy again.

 

 

See you next year,

Space Cowboy?

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Blowfish Meets Meteor Stats

I just published the code stats for Blowfish Meets Meteor, the game we worked on for Sky Tyrannosaur as Binary Solo. Check it out on our development blog here: http://wp.me/pcJ61-62.

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Indie Van Game Jam!

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I totally spaced and forgot to mention! I just launched a kickstarter for something Binary Solo is doing. It’s called Indie Van Game Jam and it features myself and Zeb “The Wedding Party” West! We travel around in a van while making games and interviewing independent game developers.

It’s going to be a lot of fun to make, regardless of whether it gets funded or not! Watch our kickstarter video!

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Something Exciting is Coming!

And I can’t wait to tell you what it is. Unfortunately, for now this is all you get: http://www.binarysolo.com

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