Busted! Eight Reasons not to use ARC

On June 28, 2012, in idevblogaday, by Steffen Itterheim

So, you’ve heard about Objective-C automatic reference counting (ARC). And you’ve read about it here and there and every where. But you’re not using it.

Guess what? You’re not alone. There are developers out there who refuse to use ARC, who delay using it, who believe they just can’t use it or expressly decided against using ARC for the time being. They all have their reasons.

Most of them are wrong.

Here’s a summary of reasons I’ve heard (repeatedly) in the past months from developers who aren’t using ARC, or have tried it but gave up using it. And I’ll tell you why these rationalizations are wrong, or at least over-inflated.

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KoboldScript Status Update

On June 24, 2012, in KoboldScript, by Steffen Itterheim

I think it’s about time to issue a KoboldScript status update. KoboldScript is Lua scripting for cocos2d, in case you didn’t know. In the near future it’ll be released as part of the KoboldScript Game Kit project. I showcased KoboldScript before here and here.

Static bindings, manual labor

One big advantage of KoboldScript over other script language solutions available for cocos2d is that the KoboldScript binding is static, ie it is done at compile time. There’s very little runtime overhead to it, thanks to SWIG. So in terms of performance it’s miles ahead of Wax, LuaCocoa or other dynamic scripting language bindings like JSCocoa. And it is compatible with both Mac OS X and iOS.

The big problem with static bindings is that you have to somehow define each class, each method, each property and write lots of glue code. In the past, I did this manually. It involved writing a C wrapper method for SWIG and usually an Objective-C dispatch function went along with it. On the Lua side the function needed to be registered as well. It’s an error prone, repetitive, boring task. Perfect for code generation!

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What is a Sprite Sheet?

On June 21, 2012, in tools, by Steffen Itterheim

A Sprite Sheet is of course a Texture Atlas (see Wikipedia). Simple, right?

Oh you wanted to know details? Like, why you should use sprite sheets? What the benefits are? How sprite sheets save memory?

Then watch the vividly animated “Sprite Sheets – The Movie, Part 1” (aka Essential Facts Every Game Developer Should Know) courtesy of Andreas Löw:

You can find the transcript of the video on this page and the tool that can do all that (and more) is TexturePacker.

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The Crazy Things you can do with Objective-C Dot Notation

On June 14, 2012, in idevblogaday, by Steffen Itterheim

Have a look at the following code example:

Did you find it strange somehow? Odd perhaps? Then you may be surprised to learn that this is perfectly valid Objective-C code. Go ahead and try it in your project. As long as the project is set to use the Apple LLVM Compiler this will work.

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Here’s a crazy thought: with commercial game kits (game source code products) being popular and financially rewarding – why not crowd-fund an iOS game by selling it’s source code, resources and development insights while you’re creating it?

Marcus and I will give this idea a spin. Marcus is a game designer I worked with at Electronic Arts Phenomic for 6 years. I’m sure you know me. Together we’re going to create a tilemap-based physics game using cocos2d and KoboldScript (Lua scripting for cocos2d). And we are going to sell everything we’ll create practically from day one.

If that sounds even slightly intruiging to you, we’d love to get your feedback!

Visit the launch page and take our survey which has already helped us tremendously to focus on what’s important for you. For example I’ve converted the entire KoboldScript library to use ARC seeing how important ARC is to you.

But do keep on reading for more details …

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How to Zoom In on a Cocos2D Node

On May 17, 2012, in cocos2d, idevblogaday, by Steffen Itterheim

Time to add another project to my github repository. This time I’m answering the frequently asked question (in some form or another) how to zoom in on a particular node. For example zooming in on the player when he dies.

That’s not as trivial as it sounds, but you can make it easy if you follow some guidelines.

First, you want to put all nodes that should be affected by the zoom in the same layer. Then you should avoid changing the position or anchorpoint of the layer – if you still want to change the position of the layer I suggest to add this layer into another, toplevel layer and then only change the position of the toplevel layer. Use the cocos2d node hierarchy to your advantage. And don’t use the CCCamera.

The behavior of this example project is best observed with your own eyes. You can get the ZoomInOnMe project on github.

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I frequently see questions like Should I use game engine A or game engine B? Sometimes the question is slightly more specific like Is game engine A right for this game?

These questions are not unlike giving a list of features or requirements and then asking Is potential partner A better for me than potential partner B? And some are closer to asking the general public a very subjective question that requires intimate knowledge about the person who is asking: With whom will I have better sex, A or B?

Well … while there’s a checklist of features that A and B may or may not have that might have some influence on the decision, more often than not your choice depends a whole lot more on whether it just feels right.

You may feel attracted to A because A is so reasonable and the support is responsive and helpful, or you may simply find yourself attracted to how B is open to everything and free of charge. You may also find that despite A or B lacking a specific feature you crave, other aspects that you didn’t even think of more than make up for it. Features aren’t everything, more important is the spirit and ease of use.

Not uncommonly a fully featured game engine (or partner) with all bells and whistles may turn out to have a really steep learning curve, many restrictions, limitations, policies, quirks while “free” may cost you a lot more than you bargained for.

Following is my game engine dating advice that you can take to places like MobileGameEngines.com to make your pick. These are the things that I consider the most important when choosing a game engine for small projects, and that is irregardless of the type of game I might want to develop.

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Enabling ARC in a Cocos2D project isn’t as straightforward as it should be. I already explained all the necessary steps and precautions in the Enable ARC in a Cocos2D Project guide.

For this post I wanted to actually show you what’s needed to enable ARC in a cocos2d project as a video. Because it may not be as complex as you think. And because I wanted to experiment making tutorial videos. If you like the video (please let me know in the comments), there will be more video tutorials in the future!

I understand the introduction is a bit lengthy, I should have gotten to the point quicker. Feel free to skip forward to 02:20 where I begin with the instructions.

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