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Random Accessing Zip Files with Adobe AIR

September 20th, 2010 16 comments

I’ve recently re-published a new version of hexagonlib, a universal AS3 class library at code.google.com/p/hexagonlib/. Some parts that were originally in the library have been removed, in particular the UI components and the game package. This has been done because I’m working on a game engine (more about that one later) that will probably exclusively include these parts. The hexagonlib is instead targeted at a broader area of development, not just games.

Either way, many classes have been updated and improved (and many still need too *ugh*) and what is particularly worth mentioning are the file IO classes which provide a unified way to work with different file formats. Basically the way how files work in hexagonlib is that you can create file objects of any specific file type (like text, binary, image, XML, etc.), give them a path to a physical file and then add them to a loader (BulkLoader, FileLoader, ZipLoader) which then loads the data of the physical files into the file objects.

While you can use the BulkLoader class to load a collection of arbitrary files in one go with all sorts of comfort (priorities, weighted loading, load retries, multi-connections etc.) the newest addition to the library is the ZipLoader class which can be used in AIR development to access a standard zip file using Random Access. What does that mean? It means that you can create a zip file (a very large one if you want), pack all your resource files that can be loaded by your application and then open it with your app and ‘load’ (= extract) files from it without ever needing to load the whole zip file completely into memory. This makes accessing a large zip file very efficient because only the chunk of the requested, zipped file is loaded.

This is especially interesting for us game developers who desire to use large, nicely packed resource files like they are utilized in a similar fashion in most current day commercial games. For a while I was promoting to add such functionality to AIR over at Adobe Labs but that was before I knew that this can actually be done in AIR since 1.0 thanks to the FileStream class and the position property of it (alas, the property is not available in the URLStream class so random access is not possible on web-based Flash). The ZipLoader uses asynchronous loading to open a zip file as well as ‘loading’ files from it because I don’t like the idea of having the application at the mercy of the file system which would be the case with synchronous access (and which is used in way too many examples on the web).

You can download the hexagonlib distribution over at Google Code, which includes the SWCs and documentation and of course the source code is available for access via SVN. I’m updating the library on a irregular basis. There are already some Wiki pages too with code examples showing how to use the BulkLoader and ZipLoader here but I will hopefully get to write some more in-depth tutorials soon.

hexagonlib at Google Code
File API Wiki
Documentaion

Running Sentinel Worlds on DOSBox with Tandy Sound

August 19th, 2010 9 comments

I’ve mentioned before that it’s possible to run Sentinel Worlds I: Future Magic in DOSBox with Tandy sound enabled but I couldn’t figure out how to get it working. Today I’m back with good news in that I can tell you how to get this fixed so the trillions of SWFM fans out there can enjoy this fantastic game with the excellent Tandy sound!

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Shoot First

July 13th, 2010 No comments

Shoot First, a game by Beau Blyth, is a mix of a Roguelike and Run-N-Gun where you explore a randomly generated dungeon while searching for precious items and encountering vile enemy monsters of all kinds. You get thrown into the dungeon at a random entry point from where you have to make your way to the next-lower floor. On the way you find chests that you can shoot open to reveal useful items and occasionally you find companions who join your party or damsels which you have to rescue from captivity. If you escort them safely to the next exit they will thank you with a reward item.

The game isn’t your generic rogue-like, it’s actually very fast-paced. To get forward you have to encounter many monsters and dispatch them or at least evade them but the enemy AI is quite smart. Many monsters will try to flank or evade you and try to shoot you while you’re hiding in a tunnel. That said, Shoot First is not an easy game. The enemies shoot a lot and they shoot well. Many of them are also quite powerful. To counter this, you’re able to shoot into any direction or strafe-shoot into one direction while running. You can also increase in level which will improve your character’s skills. You’re doing so by shooting monsters and collect small, yellow artifacts (gold?) that are revealed after a monster dies. Still the game is rather difficult to beat and to be honest I haven’t made it any further than to the third floor so far.

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Starmap Filter for Filter Forge 2.0

July 6th, 2010 No comments

After a longer break from creating game artwork assets here’s a new filter I’ve made for the recently updated Filter Forge version 2. In case you’re using Filter Forge and you we’re interested in my Galaxy Photoshop Tutorial, you might as well like to give this filter a try. You can grab it here.

RPG Design: Character Development Example

November 19th, 2009 No comments

Welcome back to the RPG Design series where I try to talk a bit about the work and progress on my game project, the development of the darkish, space -themed computer role-playing game Stellar Conspiracy: Entanglements Of The Marenis Sector (working title).

eliza5In the last part I’ve introduced the character design template I’m using and mentioned to post a character example next time which I’m doing hereby while introducing you to Eliza Retinienne, a Gessjanian security systems expert from the planet Shielle, a small world bordering on the fringe of the Suulun Sector which in turn stretches over a large area of the southern galaxy.

Eliza is one of the key characters in the game’s story and one of the characters whom the player is supposed to encounter and who eventually joins the player’s party. She is also supposed to receive her own side-quest in which the player can engage to help her out of the threatening situation she is currently in.

Note that this sheet is basically just here to give an example of how the character design template can be used to shape out a character so I suggest not to look too critically into the details. Things can (and will) still change and also the sheet is not filled out completely, for one reason because some details are irrelevant for this character and for another that I haven’t found any other suitable details for her yet. Either way I hope this gives a good example of how to utilize the template!

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Turrican I Theme (Overdrive Mix)

November 8th, 2009 No comments

I’ve been busy with some audio work recently again and decided to remix the famous Turrican I Title Theme by Chris Huelsbeck. Here it is … I haven’t intentionally made too many changes to the arrangement because I wanted to stick close to the original on the first approach and concentrate on the instrumentation instead which has been completely changed. You can download it too (if you’re into synth music/game tune remixes that is).

(All work done in REAPER. Instruments used: Synth1, V-Station, minimonsta, Nexus, MOTU BPM for drums.)

Categories: Audio, Featured Tags: ,

RPG Design: Character Development

September 24th, 2009 2 comments

char_banner

And back to the game design topic! The part I love most about game design is that you can create worlds full of life, intricacy, intrigue and interesting characters, experimenting with scenarios and situations (that would otherwise probably have negative  repercussions in RL™).

As a programmer you’d ever only write your code and if you are happy with it that’s fine but we one-man-game-developer types are more like Jack of all trades who want to create complete worlds … and stories. And then tell those stories by means of the game. And maybe throw a bit (or a large chunk) of dynamics in there again … as programmers.

One extremely satisfying aspect of game design (for games where narrative is important) is the development of characters that should act throughout the game. Creating characters is just as much fun as the other bases! If you do it right and create deep and sympathetic characters people will love them.

And even villains can be sympathetic. In fact they should be! Who likes an antagonist that is completely unsympathetic? Nobody, right? But why should you even like a villain, after all he’s the guy who needs to be defeated? The answer to this is that the guy who is the villain is so only in the context of our story. Maybe he’s not so bad after all in a different context. Or in short: Antagonists also have a life, feelings … but guess what? Now I totally digress! I actually wanted to show you my new and all fresh character template that I came up with to shape out characters for my game.

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RPG Design: Choosing the right Graphical Projection

August 11th, 2009 6 comments

Neverwinter Nights 2 Banner

I’ve been designing on a rather ambitious Role-Playing game project since a while now (in fact quite a long while but I’m not in hurry to finish it anytime soon) and while I’m in the process of working out the story, technical details like the combat mechanics, skill system etc. and creating interesting characters I still haven’t made a decision on the type of graphical projection for the game so far. I’ve been thinking about five kinds of projection from the most basic one (2D orthographic) up to full dynamic 3D which would be quite an effort. As my development platform of choice happens to be Flash, the resources in terms of 3D are limited.

So with that in mind I thought it would be good opportunity to introduce some of the most-used projections in computer and video role-playing games to get to know them a little better. This is by no means a complete list of all sorts of projection used in games but I believe these the ones most commonly used for role-playing games.

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Tutorial: Creating a Galaxy in Photoshop

July 20th, 2008 69 comments

In this tutorial I will explain how to create a relatively realistic looking galaxy with Photoshop. I was searching the web up- and downwards to find any tutorials that could tell me how to get a similar fantastic result. There are like 100.000 planet tutorials out there and the few tutorials which were about creating a galaxy where either very basic or the result looked like everything but a realistic galaxy. The galaxy I wanted should have looked massive and intricate … just like the real ones but with a slightly more artistic touch. I’ve needed a galaxy that I could use as a star map for a space-themed roleplaying game design and the image you see above is a part of the result. Let’s go try to do such one …

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Using Kore 2 more efficiently with User Tags

July 16th, 2008 No comments

Kore 2 from Native Instruments is probably every sound organizer’s wet dream with sugar on top. Not only  can it control a multitude of Softsynths but it’s database makes it easy to organize sounds and find them quickly when needed. I’ve purchased this nice tool last December and what’s better than telling a few details on how I put it’s features to good use?!

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Categories: Audio, Featured, Random Picks Tags: , ,