Archive for the 'Bugs' Category

Death to .DS_Store

December 24th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

The “.DS_Store” file is an abomination and must be stopped. You know what I’m talking about. I regularly rant about how this annoying file gets in your way, dirties things up and just screws with your stuff in general. Today I decided to do something about it. Before we get to that, lets quickly review what it is and why it sucks.

What Is It?

The .DS_Store is a Finder metadata file created primarily by Mac OS X’s Finder.app. Because of the dot (“.”) prefix it is typically not visible in many file browsers and most Mac OS X users are probably not aware of it. It is regularly created when the Finder accesses filesystem directories. It contains directory information about icon locations, view options, silkscreen configuration and the like. The functionality that it provides is moderately useful, but becoming less and less relevant over time. In any case, a long time ago the horrible decision was made to store that Finder metadata in an actual file (.DS_Store) in the filesystem within the relevant directory. We have been paying for it ever since. Over time more and more metadata relating to files and the filesystem has been added to Mac OS X, but thankfully those have been stored in saner places (extended attributes, etc). For the time being though .DS_Store is still here with us and still causing trouble. What’s so harmful about the file you might ask?

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Caster for webOS

October 6th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter


Want to buy Caster for webOS? Click Here

Caster History

Much like Amit Singh and his Hanoimania, I regularly attempt to port my friend’s game Caster to as many platforms as I can. Because of some good language and API choices upfront (C++, OpenGL 1.X, SDL, etc…) the Caster codebase is very portable. That portability combined with its relatively humble (for these days) performance needs has lent the (currently still unified) codebase to easy porting. This multi-platform journey began many years ago before Caster was even released. Caster was still in early development when Mike approached me with the idea of maintaining a concurrent Mac build. At that time Macs had not yet moved over to x86 processors and so the most difficult part of the process was reverse engineering Valve’s Half-Life model format (which Caster uses for animated character models). The Half-Life model format was a binary, in-memory format utilizing offsets which meant that while loading it was quick and simple (just read it into memory, no processing whatsoever) it was unfortunately dependent on little-endian byte order to work. Other than that and a couple of other issues, the Mac port was really straightforward. So before release, Caster was solidly supported on both the Windows and Mac platforms. After release another guy helped out with the Linux port of Caster and so at that point we now had the major desktop operating systems covered. Over the years we added slightly different versions for the desktop platforms to adapt them to specific distribution avenues like Steam and the Mac App Store. The first port that required major reworking was iOS. That adventure was chronicled in my post Caster for iPhone: A Postmortem. Mike and I had the opportunity to give a presentation about what we learned at GDC Austin ’09. Later on as the Android and webOS mobile platforms took shape, I started to look into porting Caster to those platforms as well.

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Language Aid: A Postmortem

August 27th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Language Aid is a system-wide text lookup tool I developed and sold for the past couple of years. I recently decided to make it free and release the source code. This is the story behind it.

Rewind to 2006, I was just winding down active development of Vision, my OpenGL Window Sever/UI Framework. I had started work on Vision in college 3 years earlier and had been churning on it full-time for the previous 2 years. I had decided that it was finally time to get a job and so I interviewed around and accepted a position at Apple. I had two weeks until my start date and I wanted to do some programming for fun that was completely different from what I had been doing.

Iron Coder[0]

It was during that two week period of not yet working for Apple that Wolf Rentzsch started the (now defunct) Iron Coder contest. The way it worked was that the organizer announces an API that each of the contestants must use somehow in their entry and then 24 hours later a theme is announced that entries must also somehow incorporate. I thought it was just what I needed. A fun, small-scoped project with a little bit of competition. So the day of the very first Iron Coder arrived and the contest API was announced: The Accessibility API. Accessibility API? What’s that? Until that moment I had not been aware of it but it was actually just what I had been looking for to solve a different problem I had. I started researching it and immediately there were portions of it that were very interesting to me. Specifically, the ability for programs to inspect and copy data (like displayed text) out of other running applications was of particular interest to me.

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Language Aid 1.2

August 27th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Language Aid version 1.2 is out! The big feature of this release is that it is free and open source! This will also be the last release supported by Aoren Software. Development has pretty much wound all the way down at this point and the source has experienced some code rot as Core Foundation has progressively become more and more obsolete and Mac OS X has marched forward.

So it occurred to me that the time has come to set Language Aid free. Anyone care to take the code and modernize it? Maybe even release it on the Mac App Store? Let me know and I can work with you to make that happen. Be sure to check out my tell all Language Aid postmortem.

Exploring Airplay Mirroring Internals

August 20th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

AirPlay Mirroring was without a doubt one of the coolest iOS 5 features announced to the public at the 2011 WWDC Keynote. This amazing technology allows you to display the screen of your iOS device on an Apple TV 2. At the moment, the only supported mirroring device is the iPad 2 and the receiving device is limited to only the Apple TV 2. Airplay Mirroring is the latest in a pedigree of Apple media streaming technologies. The previous entry in the family was Airplay Video and is a slightly different technology that allows specific content to be broadcast from a variety of iOS devices and iTunes to an Apple TV 2. The precursor to that technology was originally called AirTunes and is used to broadcast audio content from iOS devices and iTunes to the AirPort Express and Apple TV (either 1 or 2). One peculiar thing that people noted about AirPlay Video was that it was wide open and unencrypted! This was surprising in light of the fact that AirTunes was most definitely not. Because of AirPlay Video’s relatively easy hackability, there quickly sprang up all manner of apps for both Mac OS X and iOS which would act as an AirPlay Video consumer.

So my thought process went like thus:

  • AirTunes – Encrypted
  • AirPlay Video – Unencrypted
  • AirPlay Mirroring – ???

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Cannonade 0.5.10 (Wall Street) is now seeded

June 22nd, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

So you’re successful right? How successful? Let us count the ways. Let us count them by ranking you against your peers with an Elo ranked leaderboard and achievements. Remember that your worth can now be quantified and compared, so be sure to push your numbers as high as you can. “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good”. Welcome to the Wall Street update.

Complete Changelist:

  • Bumped engineCompatibility to 0.5.10. (this means all games previously created by versions <= 0.5.9 will be deleted)
  • Fixed a bug with the friction attachements that was casuing divergence.
  • Taking another initial stab at redoing the cluster picker menu.
  • Initial stab at 2X UI for the iPad.
  • Added in-game stats panes and leaderboards.
  • Designed the profile page and got initial replay functionality implemented.
  • Made some changes to speed up app initialization.
  • Added more capability to the stat gathering functionality.
  • Added “Judge” capability.
  • Added all the server-side support for interacting with judges and passing judgement on games.
  • Added more stats functionality and judge bug fixes.
  • Refined convex sweeping to only be super aggressive when dealing with the (thin) terrain.
  • Fixed some concurrent loading bugs.
  • Fixed a sound loading bug.
  • Added a pragma to skip the intro.

I described the initial set of achievements that I had come up with in a previous blog post. For this update these are the achievements that are actually implemented and currently earnable:

Boot Camp Rookie’s Luck Start A Fight With A Total Stranger Keep Your Enemies Close…
Finish Him Good Game Battle Hardened Angry Zurps
The General The Old College Try Flawless Victory LOL HAX
Peashooter Moonshot Greased Pig Heh Heh, Fire!, Fire!, Fire!
Rainbow Roll Lucky 7s Sky High Going The Distance
Pacifist One Hit Wonder Jack Of All Trades Critical Hit
Epic Fail McDuck The National Debt All Your Base

Alpha Testing List

Would you like to be one of the awesome alpha testers that help make Cannonade great? Send an email to: [email protected] and I will reply with instructions on how to get onto the Trac server, Testflight list and tester forums.

When Bullets Move Too Fast…

June 1st, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Did you know that bullets (and other quick moving objects) in video games sometimes exhibit magical properties if they move too fast? If they gain enough speed, sometimes they can even pass completely through other objects without leaving a scratch or affecting them at all! You might have seen this happen occasionally in games that have a lot of complicated physics simulation. Sometimes fast moving objects just seem to pass through the ground or other objects. Unfortunately this is not a desirable user experience and it quickly breaks the illusion the game is trying to convey. This phenomenon is called “tunneling” and game developers attempt to deal with it in a variety of different ways. I thought I would share my unique combination of techniques to deal with it that I used in Cannonade. I have not seen this specific combination of techniques explained or suggested anywhere and so I thought it might be beneficial to share what I have learned with others who might also be suffering from object tunneling woes. First lets explain how most modern game physics simulation works and investigate why this problem crops up.

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Cannonade 0.5.9 (Primer) is now seeded

May 23rd, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

I have decided to give names to all of my alpha updates going forward. I have chosen to follow a movie theme naming convention. I am therefore proud to announce the “Primer” update (Cannonade 0.5.9). Aptly named, this update finally adds the timeline scrubbing feature! This feature allows you to pause and restart the game at any point in the past by dragging the timeline slider and hitting the play button. Perforated glass doors quickly shut and you hear the low hum of time travel occurring in the background. Once the universe has temporally moved to your desired point the doors open and you can watch history repeat itself!

Complete Changelist:

  • Bumped engineCompatibility to 0.5.9. (this means all games previously created by versions <= 0.5.8 will be deleted)
  • Got the timeline scrubbing working!
  • Added a neat glass door progress indicator when you jump through time.
  • Moved auto-camera to only be active during opponent’s turns.
  • Did a top to bottom redesign of the cluster menu
  • Added basic OpenGL lighting to blocks.
  • Added an initial pass of the intro sequence.
  • Moved the castle picking view to one-quarter height up.
  • Used glPolygonOffest to correct decal the friction splatter.
  • Changed the editor so that it moves the camera to the half-height everytime the blocks change.
  • Baked the current levels and fixed some bugs related to baking.
  • Added history grabbing functionality.
  • Fixed a lot of bugs related to observing various points in the timeline.
  • Modified the project so that I could submit a dummy IPA to iTunes Connect so I can keep my identifier (I hope).
  • Made a new Pad+Phone based experience.plist.
  • Changed the level’s info format from a serliazed file to an NSDictionary/plist.
  • TONS of changes aimed at making it easy to integrate art.
  • Removed the individual block textures now that the atlas is working everywhere.
  • Pulling demo/intro values into the experience.plist.
  • Initial demo intro game type implementation.
  • Added a dummy account loging pragma (LOGINASAORENTEST1).
  • Minor tweaks.

Alpha Testing List

Would you like to be one of the awesome alpha testers that help make Cannonade great? Send an email to: [email protected] and I will reply with instructions on how to get onto the Trac server, Testflight list and tester forums.

Cannonade 0.5.8 is now seeded

May 9th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

The focus of this update is the new in-game tutorial! Now when you first launch Cannonade if you have never run through the tutorial it will prompt you to do so. The tutorial level is meant to teach new players how to use the battle interface and get them some target practice with the fundamentals. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think!

Complete Changelist:

  • Bumped engineCompatibility to 0.5.8. (this means all games previously created by versions <= 0.5.7 will be deleted)
  • Initial implementation of the tutorial game type and level.
  • Made some menu refinements and added a “Wiki/File A Bug” menu option.
  • Made it so that you are prompted to run through the tutorial if you havn’t before on that device.
  • A few quick menu sound effects.
  • Added detailed statistics gathering.
  • Fixed lots of little simulation execution bugs.
  • Tons of leak hunting.
  • Added friends info to the game server packets and cleaned up the server code a bit.

Alpha Testing List

Would you like to be one of the awesome alpha testers that help make Cannonade great? Send an email to: [email protected] and I will reply with instructions on how to get onto the Trac server, Testflight list and tester forums.

Cannonade 0.5.7 is now seeded

April 25th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

The two most note worthy changes in this build are SPEED and WEAPONS! After spending two days on physics performance optimization and a week and a half on graphics performance optimization Cannonade now runs a lot faster on both the iPhone and the iPad! There are still speed gains to be had but the framerate difference is like night and day. Thanks to your voting, in this build we also have the debut of the Gravity Bomb, Fire Bomb and Friction Bomb weapons. They still need to be tweaked and balanced but they are still fun to play with. Give them a shot!

Complete Changelist:

  • Bumped engineCompatibility to 0.5.7. (this means all games previously created by versions <= 0.5.6 will be deleted)
  • Did a lot more investigation into physics performance. Content with how much I have for now.
  • A HUGE graphics performance related commit.
  • Added the Gravity Bomb, Fire Bomb and Friction Bomb weapons.
  • Added powerSlider tuning buttons
  • Added a block override fade timer
  • Added all sorts of neat effects to the gravity, fire and friction bombs.
  • Added a new lava island level to design around the !FOGENABLED and NONBLENDEDLAVA speedups.
  • Initial “connection-less” Game Center implementation. Initial support for key-based communication (added libcrypto.a)
  • Added a label toggle button in game and removed the reticle label fade.
  • Reworked the visual styling of the shootMenu.
  • Abandoned scrolling on weaponScrollView because UIScrollView is too buggy.
  • Added BlockAttachements.
  • Added CANNON_IMPACT and BLOCK_POOF emitter types.
  • Tweaked Gravity Bomb effects.
  • Removed old levels.
  • Fixed a bug where resetCollisionFilters was not being called (killed replay).
  • Extended ASGlassButton to handle corners.
  • Fixed some ASGlassButton issues that were causing uneccessary redraw.
  • Added a biased decal shape as a hack until http://aorensoftware.dyndns.org:8000/TRAC/ticket/145 gets fixed.
  • Refined convex sweep tunnel protection even further.
  • Added convex sweep querying to block movements as well.
  • Added LOCALMODELVIEW so that we don’t stall OpenGL everytime we need to read/update the camera matrix.
  • Added more benchmarking oriented functionality and updated libbullet.a.
  • Tweaked build settings and switched compilers to llvm-gcc4.2.
  • Fixed the editor back into working shape.
  • Fixed cull and texture state for projectiles until they get their real objects.
  • Fixed big in terrain removal code that was smashing memory.
  • Fixed some block label override bugs.
  • Fixed key loading.
  • Fixed projectile state dirtying.
  • Added an in-game fps counter.
  • Added server games auditing to the ADMIN_MENU.
  • Checks first before copying into history now.
  • Misc bug fixes.

Alpha Testing List

Would you like to be one of the awesome alpha testers that help make Cannonade great? Send an email to: [email protected] and I will reply with instructions on how to get onto the Trac server, Testflight list and tester forums.

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