Archive for the 'Caster' Category

iOS Caster Now Has 60beat GamePad Support

January 6th, 2012
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Here’s demo of the new 60beat GamePad with my friend Mike‘s game Caster HD. I added support to both Caster/Caster HD and the update has been submitted to the App Store for approval. It shouldn’t be too long before the update actually hits the App Store. (UPDATE: Both updates are now live on the App Store!)

In the video I demo the controls starting with the cursor. The Mac/Win/Linux version of Caster has game pad support for the in-game cursor and so it was easiest to just hook into that. You don’t need to worry about switching between touch and game pad controls. Caster has no on-screen control overlays and both control styles will work concurrently so you just plug in and go! No setting switch required.

After getting into the game I demonstrate the settings for the camera movement which is controlled by the right analog stick. The start button will pause the game and give you access to the options menu. There you can tweak the camera sensitivity and invert the axis if you want.

A lot of the other controls are doubled up so you can use whichever you prefer. The left analog stick or the directional pad control walking movement. Button 3 or R2 will jump. Button 4 or the R1 will fire. Buttons 1, 2 and L2 will rotate through the different weapons. By holding down L1 you initiate a dash when moving.

(While I’ve got you here, be sure to check out my new 3D physics shooter Invader Zurp if you haven’t already. It is a ton of fun and there is nothing else like in on the App Store. 🙂 )

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.


OpenGL Game Optimization for iOS

April 22nd, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

For the past month or two I have been lightly seeding to Cannonade to testers. I have gotten the strong impression that the “fun” of my game was unfortunately getting lost in the low framerate. There is a certain reaction in the human brain that I am trying to evoke by making the blocks explode and collapse in physically realistic ways. However, when the framerate is too low the perception of motion is lost and so is my core game mechanic. I first spent a lot of time optimizing the execution of the Bullet physics engine and found a significant speed increase by tweaking compiler settings. I found that the execution of the physics simulation on iOS devices was very strongly locked to CPU performance. Now the time had come to start attacking the performance of the graphics engine. I was hopeful that I would be able to find even more significant speedups in this area because the graphics engine was custom written by myself and I could also employ device specific optimizations to take advantage of specific strengths or avoid specific weaknesses. Many of the techniques I tried out were nothing that hasn’t already been done before but I thought it would be worthwhile to document my experiences executing them in my specific situation. These are the results of a week and a half of aggressive performance benchmarking, exploration and experimentation. It goes without saying that my results are very data set specific and so they could perform better, worse or the same when applied to a different iOS app.


Caster HD for iPad is on the App Store!

April 1st, 2010
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

One of the best third person shooters on the App Store is now on the iPad! Get Caster HD now in all its high resolution glory!

I am seriously excited for the iPad! Hopefully I will be able to get a hold of one soon and check out what may be the future of personal computing.

Caster for iPhone: A Postmortem

October 31st, 2009
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

My good friend Mike has for many years had a pet gaming project called Caster which he has worked on in his free time for graphics experimentation and his own entertainment. And for almost as many years I have been working with him to port it to various platforms such as Mac OS X and iPhone OS (as of this writing I am currently poking around with a Dreamcast build of Caster). Recently Mike gave a presentation we co-authored called iPort: How to Bring Any C++ Game to the iPhone at the GDC Austin 2009 iPhone Games Summit based on our experiences with porting Caster to the iPhone. Even before the GDC presentation Mike and I thought it would be cool to write a postmortem on porting Caster to the iPhone. At the time we thought we could turn it into a blog post or web article or something. After being accepted into the iPhone Games Summit at GDC we adapted a lot of the notes and material that we had produced for the postmortem into the presentation slides. The presentation went well and the slides were jam packed with a lot of good tips and tricks for both iPhone porting newbies and experts alike. However, I thought it would still be fun to use the original material to organize a story-like postmortem.

Caster 1.1 for iPhone is out!

October 5th, 2009
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

After a long time coming, Caster 1.1 for iPhone was released about 2 weeks ago to the App Store. A lot of care has gone into listening to feedback and deciding what can be addressed now. It is a really nice update that should be a delight to existing customers and more enticement for new purchasers. Changes include:

  • The first three levels of Episode Two are playable.
  • Caster theme music cover by Mega Ran.
  • Controls tweaked to fast-paced shooting perfection.
  • Customizable draw distance (for people with the new 3GS or iPod Touch).
  • In game menu re-arrangement (to avoid hitting menu buttons inadvertently).
  • Tweaked visuals like the lifebar.
  • Small gameplay tweaks.

We learned a lot at GDC Austin 2009 about iPhone optimization, development and marketing strategies so be on the lookout for more updates in the future with improvements with regard to both technical aspects and content.

Caster for the iPhone is out!

May 6th, 2009
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Caster for iPhone

My good friend Mike has released his 3rd person action game Caster on the iPhone App Store! The entire desktop experience has been faithfully reproduced and tuned for play on the iPhone with remarkable performance. The game is really fun on the Mac and PC but it really shines on Apple’s handheld devices. The graphics performance is amazing and the relatively complex control scheme has has been adapted perfectly for the touch screen without sacrificing any functionality and is arguably easier to use.

If you are a fan of fast paced action games be sure to grab Caster. I think you will dig the gameplay and love the unique pseudo Mega Man/Anime art style. It is only $5 but there is also a free Lite version with one playable level if you want to give it a test drive first. The best part of all is that the value of your purchase will increase over time as it updates with episodic content for free.

Caster is out!

January 7th, 2009
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

At long last my friend Mike‘s game Caster has been released to the world! It is available for both Mac and Windows as a free demo or for $9.99, a full version with episodic content. Caster is a fast paced third person action game featuring fun weaponry (such as terrain deformation guns), nifty music and slick graphical effects. Mike has really poured his heart into the game and it is truly impressive to think that one person engineered and authored almost every aspect of the it. Yours truly handled the Mac port of Caster and it was a really great experience to watch Caster grow up into a full game. I am looking forward to seeing where Caster will go in the future!

Caster fan art contest

November 8th, 2008
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

My friend Mike over at Elecorn has been working hard for a long time on an action game called Caster. Fairly early on I started maintaining the Caster Mac OS X port and have had the unique opportunity of experiencing the game evolve over its development cycle. Caster has really matured into quite a fun and graphically impressive indie game. Mike has made use of a lot of neat techniques that produce slick looking graphical effects without shaders or vendor specific extensions. This emphasis on back to the basics GPU effects means that Caster runs pretty well even on older systems and doesn’t break compatibility across GPU vendors or even operating systems.

For the month of November, Mike has instituted a Caster fan art content. Caster itself has a neat feel to it and I am looking forward to seeing what people come up with. The winner gets to have their art featured in the final build of the game as well as a free copy! So if any of you out there have an artistic streak in you, see what you can come up with and it might get published in the game!

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