BlockLeftTop, PRELOAD BlockLeftBottom, PRELOAD BlockLeftStretch, PRELOAD BlockTop, PRELOAD BlockBottom, PRELOAD BlockStretch, PRELOAD BlockRightTop, PRELOAD BlockRightBottom, PRELOAD BlockRightStretch, PRELOAD

Arena Wars Reloaded Website launched

by Benjamin Nitschke 24. May 2007 20:41
The website for our upcoming game Arena Wars Reloaded was finally launched today. More information can be found on the website, we currently got a lot of infos, screenshots, wallpapers, a forum and more. The community site will also be launched soon and we still got some new features coming up.

BTW: If you had an account for the old Arena Wars game you probably got this newsletter containing some cool information about our new "Veteran" rank for the original Arena Wars players. If you had an account for Arena Wars One everyone will see that you are a Veteran in the Arena Wars Boards and in the game itself.


Fun with Visual Studio Orcas

by Benjamin Nitschke 22. May 2007 15:35
Not really - Just wanted to update a LinqToSql file after I changed the database a little bit. I could not find any update button and "Execute Custom Tool" just did nothing and the source code did not change either. Not sure if this is a bug or just something that is not available. LinqToSql is still much better than the SQLMetal command line tool from LinqMay2006, but it is still annoying that it does not autoupdate itself.

I just tried to drag the changed database into the designer and this is what happend: No this test database is not that complex, it just has 5 tables and a few links and helpers between them.

If you just want to impress someone drag your tables a few times into the LinqToSql designer and you look like the smartest man in the world ... this is how it looks after you drag in the tables 2 more times:

Btw: I just want to have the freaking tables update themself, I obviously do not want 4 times the same tables. But I thought this looks funny ...

Using FreeMind to visualize your .txt TODO list

by Benjamin Nitschke 22. May 2007 03:13
Recently I talked a little bit about FreeMind (ok, maybe not as much as I wanted, but at least I mentioned it a few times). While I use it for sampler concepts and overview ideas instead of painting everything on paper and erasing it like 20 times until is is completely unreadable, I find it still to hard to add new nodes (hotkey: Insert) or to edit them (hotkey: F2).

For example my TODO list usually contains 5-20 entries per day and I have it open in Visual Studio side by side with my code and try to complete the tasks I give myself in addition to more general tasks from OnTime and fixing bugs if I have to (do not really like that part, code should just work, but sometimes there is not enough time to ensure that with unit tests). Anyway, having this TODO list outside Visual Studio is not a good idea for me, I tried many different TODO list programs, from websites to sidebars like Google Desktop or Vista Widgets, standalone programs like TODOList, etc. After a short while I went back to my messy TODO lists, for Arena Wars in 2004 I had a big TODO list with about 100k lines because I threw everything in there I was every thinking of for a few years. In later projects I just created a TOOD list for each project and it got less messy, but it was still hard to go through it after a while. I also had to refactor the lists a few times when things changed, which was especially painful if it was already too big to manage easily.

I tried using FreeMind or similar tools in the past, but importing the .txt files did not work out (mostly because older TODO list had not much of a tree structure) and getting it back to a useful .txt file was not possible. I also used my TODO list for dumping ideas, which was not a good idea because it got much harder to find actual work items between all the crazy ideas.

Now I use a strict ruleset for my TODO lists and they are like XML tree based and I only allow one entry per line (thats what word wrapping is for if lines get big). Now my TODO lists also are structured a lot more like a schedule for the project I'm working on. I still add TODO lists entrys at the bottom, but they get moved around if they can't be done in a day or week. It is important to notice that I never plan more than 1 week in advance for specific tasks. Each Monday I take the week plan, which is an overall idea what should be done this week and split it up into days and work tasks. It is also very agile and I change the overall direction a lot, which is exactly what my company requires ^^

Let's take a quick look at a simple example (by the way, very realistic for the kind of TODO lists I create every day):

TODO: Project "Taking over the world"
  TODO: Week 1 2007-05-21: Build world formula
    OK: Monday: Hire mad scientists
      OK: Install tools and instruct everyone.
      OK: Setup team in bunker for all the operations!
    TODO: Tuesday: Kill some people, just make sure everyone takes you seriously from the beginning!
    TODO: Wednesday: Still not serious? Hire Jack Bauer or someone similar
      TODO: You also need programmers, without them your project is lost.
      TODO: Buy some more mad tools, outsourcing is good thing, even for evil people
    TODO: Thursday: Get everyone together, make a big evil plan.
      TODO: Make sure everyone is on board.
      TODO: Kill everyone else!
    TODO: Friday: The weekend is probably not the best time to take the world over, wait for next week
      TODO: While you are at it, try developing the world formula, which was the task for this week!
      TODO: Beat some people up, make sure you are still taken seriously!
TODO: week 2: 2007-05-28: Time to take over the world
TODO: week 3: 2007-06-04: Make sure no enemies survive
TODO: week 4: 2007-06-11: Wait for everyone to accept you as their leader
TODO: week 134: 2009-12-20: Keep on waiting ...

Now we can take that bunch of genius material and just copy+paste it into an empty FreeMind project (make sure it is FreeMind 0.8, in 0.9 beta copy+paste does not work the same way yet), which will result in the following picture (I just dragged over all nodes to the right side, I like that much better. I also scaled it down, click on it for the full version):

Well, its cool and easy to use and best of all: I still can use my lovely good old TODO lists as .txt files, exporting back after resorting and rearranging the items in FreeMind is also easy, just press Ctrl+A to select everything (or just select a parent node) and copy it into your clipboard, then in NotePad, UltraEdit or Visual Studio paste it in again. Sometimes it also copies some other strange FreeMind data, but that can easily be removed and your TODO list is up to date. I also print out the TODO list each week for my colleages to let them see what I'm working on and what evil things I have planed for them :)

Tools 2007: Using VS Orcas, Multiple monitors, FreeMind, SourceGear Vault, OnTime, Screenshot Captor and StarCraft II

by Benjamin Nitschke 20. May 2007 03:38
Dunno what happened. I wanted to post this a week ago but for some reason I did not find any time to post the whole week. This way I can probably give a more detailed view at the new programs I've been using for one to two weeks now.

BTW: I also updated some links in the menu and on the right side of this website, there were a lot of links not pointing to the correct locations.

First of all, I'm exclusively using Visual Studio Orcas now. I mentioned the Visual Studio Orcas Beta1 a month ago and explained how to import unsupported addins and fix some issues. I did not have much time to check out Silverlight yet, but it still looks very promising. There is also a new website from Microsoft called PopFly that is using it.

Last week one of my colleages was away for a couple of days and I stole his 24" monitor and put it right beside my 24". At that time I was converting a few projects from VS 2005 to VS Orcas, but as you can see that is way too much one the screen. I even tried to rotate both screens by 90 degrees, but after a hour I was feeling silly always looking up and down. Anyway, it is just too much to look at both these screens at once. Having one big 24" and a 20" or 19" right beside it is already a very effective solution. Important stuff goes on the big screen (VS mainly) and all the rest (firefox, ultraedit, explorer, whatever) go on the secondary screen.

This is my normal setup and I'm much more used to that. I have worked with multiple monitors for about 7 years now, it is nothing special anymore, but now is the first time I don't really need a bigger monitor anymore ^^

Ok, let's go on with some tools. I downloaded FreeMind a month ago and played around with it a little, but it couldn't convince me to replace my good old txt TODO list. But for other stuff FreeMind is really great.

In a matter of seconds you can create a overview design and it has the advantage to put it directly into a project instead of having it on paper, never been able to add stuff and losing it after a short while. Here is one of the FreeMind maps I have recently created just describing a project design and the workflow process. I have also seen examples of complete project management with FreeMind or using it for TODO lists or scheduling, but I'm not convinced that you are faster with it. I do not really need a graphical view of my TODO list, at least not at the time I throw ideas and tasks in there. To view the work process I could still convert my TODO list (which is tree based) to FreeMind anyway. It is just faster entering text into a text file than to anything else (which is also the main reason I never found any good TODO list tool).

Then on the recent DotNetRocks radio show I heard Eric Sink from SourceGear talking about Source Control and his tool SourceGear Vault, which is very similar to SourceSafe. This year I went crazy and tried all kinds of source controlling systems, including the following:

  • SubVersion (successor of CVS): SubVersion is a really great version control system and it works really good, both on small and big projects. We have used it for Arena Wars Reloaded and the only cavecat was getting it to work inside Visual Studio 2005. Thanks to the plugin VisualSVN it worked out just fine, only adding files is a real hassle (they are not added to the remote server, just locally). For VS Orcas there is no support and when you are working with ASP.NET websites in VS SubVersion and VisualSVN is a really bad choice IMO because it messes up the directories and does not add the files properly.

  • Perforce: Ok, I went back to Perforce, which I had used before, but mostly alone or together with another programmer. Perforce is a very professional solution, but again not very practical for anything but programmers and I wanted to include the graphic artists and project managers into the version control system too. Also Perforce still has a lot of issues with Visual Studio IMO and is still hard to setup, even with the much improved UI that finally allows you to set rights properly without messing in command line scripts. Again, no support for VS Orcas and the main reason not to use Perforce is the crazy price, $800 per developer, good bye! It was a lot cheaper a few years ago, but I never got into Perforce (mostly used SourceSafe in the past).

  • SourceSafe: Ok, back to the basics. The good old SourceSafe with an internal file system that no one understands, strange bugs that prevent you from adding files or the good old "If you delete a file, it is still there, just the content is gone"-"feature". For smaller projects SourceSafe is fine and if you do not have many developers, it works ok, but you can't give it to any graphic artist and once something gets messed up you need to spend a lot of time cleaning it up. The good thing is it works right out of the box in Visual Studio Orcas.

  • And then I tried SourceGear Vault: It is pretty much the same thing as SourceSafe, it just uses a SQL DB backend, has a much cleaner interface and much better tools including nice importers to get all your projects converted into the new version control system (yeah, everyone says they have importer, but they never work, the Vault Importer worked, it had no problem importing several GB of SourceSafe data). The disadvantage might be that it still feels like SourceSafe and it still has some of its issues (like deleting files and they appear again as 0-byte files), but overall it is much improved. We have just used it for a few days now and we had one merge problem so far, but that was probably because one artist did not check in his files and we changed it a few times. Vault also runs fine on VS Orcas as it probably just uses the standard SourceSafe interface for most of its stuff, which runs just fine on VS 2005 and Orcas.

  • I also tried a couple of other version control systems, but none of them worked in VS Orcas and I did not find a great one anyway. Some tools like AlienBrain have really nice features, but too much other stuff is missing and while it might be a great tool for artists, it is unusable for programmers. I do not believe in having separate version control systems, especially if you work tightly with your artists and make 10+ check ins per day with them.

I also use another tool called OnTime (Ship Software OnTime) for a while now. It is a project management tool and we use it mainly for bug tracking. It is about 700 times better than having you bug tracker on a stupid website. Website bug trackers like Mantis or BugZilla are not good for quickly adding tasks, entering bugs and fixing them in my opinion. They might be useful if you have to work with remote teams or if you expect really detailed bug reports. In our case we have mostly short tasks and quick bug reports, which are written in a few seconds.
But more importantly OnTime integrates directly into Visual Studio (sadly not VS Orcas, but the Windows tool on a secondary screen is fine too). It allows you to quickly add tasks for yourself or for any team mate and to go though 20 bugs in a few minutes (you will never be that fast with a website system). But the best feature IMO is the email management, OnTime allows you to send emails to a specific email address, which get picked up and added to the bug list. Then the programmer sees the issue, fixes it and the email sender gets a reply that the bug has been fixed. This system worked out great in our company.

For some strange reason I can't make screenshots with PrintScreen in Windows anymore. I guess some VNC tool messes up my clipboard or Windows just does not want to handle screenshots as big as my monitor resolution is. I searched for a good screenshot capture tool because I was getting annoyed with the PrintScreen+Paste in Paint or similar+Save somewhere on disk approach anyway. I used a tool a few years back that automatically made screenshot of the desktop every minute or so, which was funny, but I can't remember the name anymore. After testing a couple of crappy freeware and shareware programs I finally found Screenshot Captor, which is freeware and a really good tool with a lot of cool features. Most importantly, it allows you to capture your screen, window, or all screens with PrintScreen, Alt+PrintScreen or Ctrl+PrintScreen and it even safes the screenshot in the format you want into a directory you want. This was exactly what I needed :)

And finally to finish this big monster post: Blizzard announced today that StarCraft II is in the making and I was totally blown away by this. Many sites like GosuGamers.Net reported all week and were guessing StarCraft II or Diablo III, but there were so many rumors about StarCraft II, not many people were very sure of it anymore.

There are already some screenshots and game infos available, you can also find a few game play videos on youtube and 2 trailers by blizzard are on the official StarCraft II website, which is painfully slow by the way ^^ The game looks pretty good, but it still has many similarities with WarCraft III and there was already a lot of critics by pro-gamers and people in the StarCraft communities fearing that this game would be slower and less balanced than the original. I suspect the same, but StarCraft II will still be the best RTS that comes out in the next couple of years and every RTS fan will buy it anyway.

If it can surpass StarCraft - BroodWar is not for sure yet and we have to wait and see. It will probably attract more people to the StarCraft universe, but the old StarCraft community will not die that fast. It probably will take another 1-2 years until the game is done anyway. But this was very amazing news for me, I was suspecting Diablo III or some MMORPG from Blizzard, but not a PC-only old-school singleplayer+multiplayer game, that really goes back to the roots and just adds 3D graphics and physics to it. Nice job Blizzard! Ads in Second Life

by Benjamin Nitschke 9. May 2007 03:52
I had a crazy idea to put our poster into the Second Life game simulation. My brother is an active Second Life'er and he got the poster up and posted in a matter of seconds. Thanks :)

Maybe we can do some more advertising in second life or other platforms for real, time will tell ^^

Here are some screens from Second Life to give you an idea on how this looks:

Article in Wired about Dungeon Quest from the GDC 2007

by Benjamin Nitschke 9. May 2007 03:45

Today I got the Wired Magazine in my mail and on site 80 there is a nice article about the development process of the XNA Challenge game Dungeon Quest from the GDC 2007. It was written by Mary Jane Irwin from the Wired Games Blog, thanks :). There is also a nice picture gallery with 21 images from the 4 days, which nicely shows the advancements we made each day. Enjoy!

PS: There is probably more information on this and other XNA projects on the huge website, but every time I search for XNA or my name, I just find too many articles. Test for yourself. Beta Launches

by Benjamin Nitschke 9. May 2007 00:27 is a german student community site with many features. Because it is currently target at a german audience the rest of this post will be in german ^^

Einfach auf das Bild klicken um sich das ganze mal anzugucken. Die version liegt nun auch nicht mehr auf unserem Entwicklungsserver und ist inzwischen auch schon stabiler geworden. Aber wir haben noch keine Langzeittests gemacht und es gibt noch paar Kleinigkeiten, die wir diese und naechste Woche fixen wollen.

Aber kein Grund Interessierte nicht schon jetz draufzujagen. Hier ein paar der neusten Features (PS: Ich hab natuerlich keine deutsche Tastatur, also nicht wundern, wenn hier ue's, ae's, oe's, etc. fehlen ^^):
  • Wir haben ja schon an die 1000 Studiums-Dokumente und nun kann man von jedem auch eine Flash-Vorschau direkt auf der Seite angucken und ein bisschen drin stoebern. Momentan sind wir sehr stolz auf dieses Feature. Das ganze funktioniert natuerlich auch fuer alle neue Unterlagen, die ihr hochlaed.
  • Tag basierte Interessen mit einer huebschen Uebersichtsseite, die immer gleich andere User zeigt, welche auf aehnliche Dinge abfahren.
  • Verwalte deine Freunde in "Meine Freunde". Hier kommen auch noch ganz abgefahrene Features in Kuerze.
  • Im Studiumsbereich kann man sich Faecher anlegen oder existierenden Faechern beitreten und somit Kommilitonen leicht wiederfinden und mit ihnen diskutieren und Unterlagen tauschen.
  • Unter Bilder kann sich jeder eigene Alben anlegen und Bilderbuecher erstellen. Hier haben wir ausserdem noch paar coole innovate Features fuer die nahe Zukunft geplant (Note: Momentan wird das Albumsmodul noch ueberarbeitet, also entschuldigt kleine Fehler und Unannehmlichkeiten).
  • Man kann natuerlich auch das uebliche machen, wie Freunde adden, im Forum rumposten, Gruppen erstellen, Profileinstellungen machen und Gaestebuecher vollspammen, etc.
Stay tuned, more to come!

Silverlight and I spotted A Racing Game Mod: Cyber Car

by Benjamin Nitschke 8. May 2007 03:55

I heard about all the Silverlight fuss from the MIX2007 conference last week, but I did not have time to check it out with all the stress and projects I'm currently involved in. I already use VS Orcas for a while (see post from last month) and I played around with WPF in the past (formerly Avalon, now Silverlight, which is still in beta, but will be released this summer finally), but I did not find anything compelling for a game programmer since we use DirectX or XNA anyway. But with the ability to build websites with Silverlight and still allowing the .NET framework to exist in that environment while simplifying the development process and getting away from building static html like pages with some dynamic features (ajax or not, it is still somewhat static and hard to do), Silverlight gets much sexier than just WPF on a windows app by itself.

Why is Silverlight cool? It is .NET, it runs on Firefox, IE, Safari, Mac, etc. it is just 2 MB download, it is amazingly fast, it has many cool new features, it allows many windows-only apps to be developed for the browser in a more natural way, it will be pushed like crazy and a lot of people will have it till the end of this year, there are already some cool tools out there including the Expression toolkit and Visual Studio Orcas, and probably a lot of other reasons you can checkout yourself!

Maybe it is even possible to interop with some DirectX or XNA stuff somehow. I have no idea if this is possible at all or if there are security issues or this kind of functionality is not possible at all, but instead of waiting for another week until I find a few minutes to test this out, why not announce it here first that this would be cool and maybe someone else can test it for me :)

Even for just doing websites, Silverlight will definitely become a BIG competitor to Flash based websites, developing in .NET will be a lot easier than working with Flash/Actionscript/whatever and I would bet that there are more VB/C# developers that can now do some great websites without having to learn much while creating Flash sites or even doing ASP.NET (with or without Ajax) development is much harder and less compelling for certain kinds of applications. Great examples are the FOX Movies site and some widgets on MSDN or some early test controls from Telerik.

BTW: Archor wrote me an email about his Cyber Car XNA game he wanted to submit to the XnaProjects.Net site I made last week. This is actually a Racing Game Mod, I first guessed he used the simple racing game version, but this one is based on the full racing game from the XNA creators website. Pretty cool style in my opinion. Thanks Archor!

My XNA book is out and XnaProjects.Net launches

by Benjamin Nitschke 4. May 2007 13:29
Yes. My XNA book is finally out and some people even got an early version last week. There is also some discussion going on in the XNA Forums and on the official Wrox forum for the book.

The coolest thing yesterday that my book was on Rank #16 for Computer/Technical books on and on Rank 500 something for all books. Quite impressive if you ask me, hopefully it will continue to stay high and make me filthy rich .. just kidding.

Yesterday I wanted to put all the samples from the book on my blog, but it is already way to overloaded here with screenshots and games, adding another 10 games will not make anything better. Instead I had a crazy idea to create a XNA Community site in one day. It is called XnaProjects.Net. The idea is for everyone to submit their games and links. News are grabbed with Google Blog Search and more features will come in July 2007 when I got more than 5 minutes time in a row.

Anyway, check out this great new website, submit your games and links and check out whats already submitted by me (10 Games so far, yes, thats a lot of XNA games I did in the past few months):

  • XNA Pong
  • XNA Breakout
  • XNA Tetris
  • Rocket Commander XNA
  • XNA Shooter
  • XNA Racing Game
  • SimpleRacingGame
  • SpeedyRacer
  • Dungeon Quest
  • Skinning with Collada Models in XNA
You can find source code and game installers for all of these games, including some nice screenshots and a YouTube video for each of them on the XnaProjects.Net website. Check it out:
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are own personal opinions and do not represent the companies view.
© 2000-2011 exDream GmbH & MobileBits GmbH. All rights reserved. Legal/Impressum


Which platform should Soulcraft be released on next?

Show Results Poll Archive

Recent Games



Jobs @ exDream


<<  July 2014  >>