Monthly Archives: January 2017

Back from Malta

Hey guys, I just spent a week in Malta with Ronja, my brother, and his girlfriend. It was quite an adventure. This holiday was planned without my input, so it was all surprises for me. All I knew was that Malta was located somewhere around Spain or Italy, and was probably a lot like those places. (and it turns out it was)

We went in winter to save money, and the weather was kind of crazy. When the sun was out it was great, but as soon as it leaves it’s time to add two layers of clothing. Even at it’s worst it was still way warmer than Scotland though, so I can’t complain there. But the bigger issue was that the homes there don’t have central heating and not enough blankets, so we had to struggle a bit with inefficient electric heaters and air conditioners. The places were also very damp, drafty and dusty. We got used to it. It was all Airbnb places we stayed at. Maybe hotels were a bit nicer. Maybe not.

Another issue is that not a lot of tourist stuff was even open! Tons of restaurants and even some tourist attractions didn’t bother opening in Winter. Oh well, at least it wasn’t crowded.

That’s the complaints out of the way. Malta was really pretty! We stayed 4 nights on the main island and 3 nights on the smaller island Gozo, seeing both a lot of the towns and also a lot of the countryside. The architecture was all a bit samey, with everything being made from limestone, but there was still plenty of nicely decorated homes and churches, with all sorts of statues and patterns. The towns were all very cosy with everything squeezed in very close together (I guess you could call them cramped, but I liked it in this case). We visited a small cave under a house. The capital city Valletta had some impressive fortifications and cannon firing ceremonies.

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The seaside cliffs and arches and caves were great. We took a brief ride around them on a tiny boat – it rocked so much it was like a terrifying rollercoaster. Probably the highlight of the trip there. I also loved the mediterranean trees! I took a lot of tree photos to hopefully inspire EBF5 a bit.

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Visited some megalithic temples, which were 5,000 years old. You really have to use your imagination with those. It’s awesome that buildings from so long ago are still around… but they’re really not that impressive if you just look at them – they’re just a pile of rocks. So you gotta learn some of the history to get into it – I’ll have to find some documentaries!
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I need to mention that the traffic was mental. Malta has tons of cars for such a small country, and very tight roads. The drivers seem to be like those in Italy: very aggressive, trying to overtake the instant they need to slow down a tiny bit. The cars had many battle scars. There was also tons of old cars! Not fashionably old ones, just normal old. It reminded me of the 90s in a nostalgic way. Same goes for most of the technology there. They have all of the new stuff, but tons of old stuff is still lingering around too. They’re really taking their time updating things.

Well, I think that’s all of my thoughts out.

Pink Crosses!

Found out today that using the red cross in video games violates the Geneva Convention and that they’re going after some devs who do.  So I updated my red crosses to pink crosses!

This is such a ridiculous story though. The law is beyond common-sense sometimes.pink crosses

EBF5: Equipment Code

Hey guys, I’m entering all of the equipment data, so I thought I’d share a bit of the process. Here’s a list of all of Natalie’s weapons; as you can see it’s over 600 lines of code!

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Let’s open one of those equipment sections up, here’s one of Lance’s guns. It’s quite verbose but I think it’s reasonably readable this way. Inputting all of this data is exhausting.

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I think I’m coming up with more interesting effects for equips now, and even if they’re not balanced, they will hopefully be fun to try out just for the different effects. Also I’m back to the EBF3 style of upgrades: you don’t know what specials equipment will have until you upgrade it, so it’s a secret again!

The equipment that’s returning from previous games isn’t being changed much stat-wise, but many of them will have slightly different specials this time.

 

Mid-Project Crisis

Update: I think I’ve found a solution to my problem. With the help of HTMLLoader and LocalConnection, I can get Flashplayer running inside AIR, and I can get the best of both.

Hey guys, with Epic Battle Fantasy 4 being in a Humble Bundle and having a lot of new eyes on it, I once again had the horrifying realization that I’m still making games in Flash. I thought a bit about this when I started working on Epic Battle Fantasy 5 a year ago, but pushed those thoughts to the side and decided to wait and see how things might develop. Well, things haven’t gotten much better.

Here’s the problem: Adobe suck. 

Adobe AIR is their cross-platform solution for running Flash apps on Desktop, iOS and Android – and it would be perfect for my needs EXCEPT that the Desktop version doesn’t have the same performance optimizations that the mobile versions have. It doesn’t have the Stage Quality setting that Flashplayer has – this let’s you change the anti-aliasing of vector graphics and is a huge factor on performance. HUGE. My games always have this set to MEDIUM by default, with lots of users setting it to LOW. But in AIR, it’s permanently set to HIGH, making my games run 50 to 100% slower in AIR compared to the web Flashplayer! What the hell!

Another missing feature is GPU rendering for bitmaps. If I convert all of my vector graphics to bitmaps, they’ll run quite well on a phone! Not on my desktop computer though! Madness!

Word from Adobe is that they’ll consider features that are often requested, like these. But after waiting for a year (and hearing how other developers waited much longer than that), I think it’s time to assume it’s not a priority for Adobe at all.

I used Adobe AIR for my release of Epic Battle Fantasy 3 on Steam. And everything works very nicely, except that the performance is terrible! Many users pointed out that it ran noticeably worse than the web version, and that’s because it does.

My shooter game Bullet Heaven 2 worked well in AIR, but it didn’t use vector graphics very much, so this wasn’t an issue. It was made with Starling and Stage3D, which performs very well, but makes animation much harder than it is in regular Flash games, and there’s no way I could make an EBF game like that. There’s just too much complicated animation involved.

For Epic Battle Fantasy 4, which came out on Steam almost 3 years ago now, I used a Flash wrapper called MDM Zinc, which is similar to AIR but uses the standard Flashplayer, and therefore runs my games better. This worked well, but it had serious compatibility issues with a few users, and the company that made it is gone now, so I can’t use it anymore anyway. There’s a DRM-free build of it left over, but as far as I can tell there’s no way of getting rid of the “trial version” splash screen now.

Publishing on Steam using a simple Flashplayer Projector is an option too. The performance would be better, but I’d be restricted by not having common application features like being able to create save files wherever I wish, or controlling the size of the application window. Adding Steam features like cloud saving and achievements would require inconvenient work-arounds.

So what other options does that leave me with?

I could convert my animations to Unity files using something like GAF or UniSwf, and port all of my code over to Unity too. That could lead to great performance, and Unity is super popular and well supported now, unlike Flash. Downside is I’d have to learn Unity very well, port tons of work over, and overall I’d probably have a much slower workflow than I do in Flash. EBF5 was meant to be a 2-year project, if I switch to Unity I could easily see that being 3 years or more, with tons of unforeseen problems thanks to my lack of any experience with Unity. Not a risk I’d like to take with my biggest project ever.

Also the chances of releasing a web version of the game would go down drastically if it’s not made in Flash. Steam’s my main market now, but I still have tons of fans there who would lynch me if I didn’t release a web version. Sticking to Flash also makes any future mobile ports easy – Adobe AIR does work fine on mobile after all, it’s just the Desktop version that’s causing me grief.

Apparently Scaleform is a cool technology for running Flash content fast – it’s used for GUIs in AAA titles and also some mobile games. But it doesn’t look like they’re interested in the Desktop indie market, and I couldn’t even get permission to try it out.

OpenFl is another framework I considered, as its workflow is supposed to be similar to Flash. But it still feels like it’s in its infancy, not being fully implemented or documented yet, and would still require a lot of porting pains, much like a move to Unity would.

None of this really threatens EBF5’s development. I just think it’s likely that I’m going to have to make some compromises when it comes to Steam features or performance. Maybe I’ll make 2 launchers on Steam, Flashplayer and AIR, and users can decide which one works better for them.

Oh well.

Thanks, Adobe.
For not developing Desktop AIR, and for leading me on.