Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reusability and You

Greg sent me this link a little while ago: The Basics of Design Patterns

It's about how useful it can be to use design patterns in your code. Not only for the sake of reusability but also because they can, if used in the right place, make your code cleaner and more efficient.

It got me thinking on how much I have been implementing not only design patterns but also reusable code in Call Connect. I've been long time friends with Singletons and have a solid Singleton class that follows me around from project to project but when it comes to some other elements I feel like I could (and should) create code that is much easier to transfer over to new projects. The menu system I have created is reusable but could be improved to reduce the size of the eventual screen changing switch statement as one example.

The tricky decision is always whether to spend the time creating something reusable or to just hack something together so that it is working sooner. Sometimes the temptation to hack and see results quicker is too great and the promises to 'come back and redesign later' are made. You just have to make sure to actually keep those promises otherwise you'll get to the next project and find you have to rewrite something that would have been easy to bring over from the previous project. I know I've found myself in this situation too many times over my academic career and so I am aiming to rectify this in my professional one.

This is also something that can be extended to Tools Development, something which I have not put enough effort into and will have to fix in the very near future. Tools can be especially helpful in smaller teams as they can - depending on the type of tools - share the development load across more people. With the right tools Greg could be tweaking game design elements and testing game assets instead of all the this load being placed on me, the programmer. Luckily with the close work environment and quick change and build times this is not as large a burden as it could be but it still is one of the more important lessons that has been learned in the development of Call Connect and will see improvement in the future.

Call Connect, as the first project from Walk Through The Clock, has always been thought of as a learning tool (As well as our stepping stone to fortune and fame!) and hopefully using good design patterns and tools will allow each subsequent project to not only have reduced development times but to also be an improvement on the previous project.


P.S. Matt has also started documenting the various possible design patterns starting with The Singleton. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

GCAP '10

Fascinating trip to GCAP this year (that is to say GCAP itself was fascinating, not the trip there.  That was mundane and, dare I say it, rather painful).

If I could sum up this year's conference in one word it would be this one: marketing.

This word and subsequently theme was common to 80% of presentations, particularly the plenaries.  David Edery's take on the lifecycle of a console is a useful guide for those wishing to maximize their chances of success when launching a new title on a particular platform.

The chaps at Endgame offered one of the few solely gameplay focused presentations as they outlined the difficulties they encountered when balancing, er, difficulty.  Fractured Soul for the DS is a gamers game, if there is such a thing any more; if there is, this it is one, or something.  A significant portion of their presentation was centred around the user testing process and the feedback generated by it.  Heartbreaking might be one way to describe it.  However, for the sake of a little pain, a well balanced gameplay experience is its own reward.

The Doublefine keynote was entertaining though not particularly relevant to those not running a large studio.  Despite that, it did offer one particular lesson applicable to any developer; take risks. 

Between sessions we were treated to a middling selection of pastries, none of which tempted me (though they were quickly snapped up by other more ravenous developers.  Devs are a fine judges of pastryflesh).  Lunch was distinctly DIY which seemed in keeping with the rise of local indie developers and the room in which we were provisioned could have housed a giraffe.

The EEDAR keynote illustrated the value of statistical data to developers as stat after stat was hurled at us from the podium by Greg Short.  I was left in no doubt of the comparative scale of the industry and it's continuing growth through a particularly rough economic period.  This previously 'recession proof' industry had been downgraded to defcon 2 or 'recession resistant', though this is still a pearly state of being.

Halfbrick's session had arguably the heaviest marketing focus and highlighted the need for a dedicated marketing person or unit depending on the scale of the assault.  Of note were the fact that reviews were synchronised to launch alongside the game itself, thus creating a sort of tidal wave of attention.  Of further note was the focus on maximizing marketing opportunities for each update, effectively relaunching the game in the process.

Special mention must go to Jupiter's Casino for having the gaudiest neon lighting system imaginable, the most appalling taste in music and the snottiest waiter this side of Noosa.  "Got the money mate?  Can't pay with hopes and dreams!"  No, no you can't, though when you've already set up a bar tab it's not really relevant is it?

Afternoon all,


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Beginnings, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love The Blog

Hello everyone!  We are Walk Through The Clock, a youthful pairing of game development muscle and finesse about to make an imprint on the gaming landscape, or something.  We are Greg (art and design) and Shaun (programming) and plan to use this blog as a means of detailing our game dev failures, victories and experiences in general.  That, and perhaps the odd rant about tram inspectors and the ever increasing cost of a latte in Melbourne.  Posts will feature a mix of the technical and the creative, plus general musings on the world of game development, a world we love so much we'd marry it if we could.

We are currently working on our first title, an iPhone game called Call Connect.  We can't reveal too much about it just now (mainly because it isn't done yet!) but we'll put up some screenshots and perhaps a video of the little guy in action.  We'll throw in a few words about our development experience to date and go through the mechanics of this fairly atypical game.  In the meantime, check our website link on the sidebar over there; you can follow our rants and raves via the ubiquitous Twitter and the dreaded Facebook.

Until then, this is hello, and our motto:

"Through glass and wood and cogs and springs, step inside; we'll show you things..."

P.S. By things, we mean games :)