Cocos2D Podcast #2: Alternative Engines

On April 25, 2011, in cocos2d, podcast, by Steffen Itterheim

The second Cocos2D Podcast with Mohammad Azam (@azamsharp) from HighOnCoding.com and me is now online at the Cocos2D Podcast website.

Listen to the Cocos2D Podcast #2

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It’s Easter weekend so why not have another coupon code event? :)

You’ll get 50% off ($59.50 USD instead of $119 USD) on my Line-Drawing Game Starterkit when you enter this Coupon Code during purchase:

LINE-DRAWING-EASTER-BUNNY

This coupon code is valid until Wednesday, April 27th. Not sure about the exact time, since this is a Plimus setting I’m guessing US Central Time plus or minus 3 hours. Feel free to share the code.

Happy Easter!

My Xcode 4 Template Doc is now available

On April 21, 2011, in Announcements, Xcode, by Steffen Itterheim

As promised a while ago my Xcode 4 Template Documentation efforts have finally produced a result. Please refer to the product page for more information.

I’ve put in roughly 70 hours. Might have been even more, I didn’t keep track. I would appreciate your support by purchasing the documentation!

I also checked again if any new source of information on Xcode 4 Templates has come up, but couldn’t find any new sources. As of today and roughly 4 weeks after I started with my Xcode 4 documentation endeavour, there’s still very little documentation about Xcode 4 templates on the net. The following are the only external sources I referred to:

The marketing dude in my mind tells me I should probably mention that the information you get from the above links is just a fraction of what you’ll find in my Xcode 4 Template documentation. 😉

Happy Easter!

Or to be politically correct: Happy Holidays! :)

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WOW! :)

On April 14, 2011, in book, cocos2d, by Steffen Itterheim

From the Apress website:

The iPhone-developing Cocos2D crowd beats the .NET afficionados! Kudos and thanks! 😀

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Master the Art of Perfection

On April 14, 2011, in Kobold2D, Xcode, by Steffen Itterheim

Today I tweeted:

“How to be efficient? Don’t try to master the art of perfection.”

That seems to have caught some attention. I must admit it wasn’t entirely devoid of any meaning to my work. For all the time when I was an actual employee and someone else was paying me to do a certain job within a specified time frame as good as possible, it remained an elusive notion that one day, you want to do a job “right” for once. Because there’s always either time or budget cutting into what’s possible or worse what’s reasonable.

I always considered myself to be a pragmatic, and while I liked the notion of one day doing one’s work as good as one possibly can – a mantra some of my colleagues were more keen than others to repeat – I accepted that it would never happen. That was until I became responsible for my own work and financials. I recently started digging into the Xcode 4 Template system, at first out of interest and requirements for the Kobold2D project, and then to make quality documentation for the new Xcode 4 template system. I think that was about 3 weeks ago now, and recently I noticed I’m not going very far, I keep finding the roadblocks and dead ends and generally quirks and issues which end up in countless of hours doing nothing but trial & error with little results to show for.

And there I was, fighting with myself trying to figure it all out – I mean literally everything. And it was getting harder to finish the job because it became more and more demotivating not being able to find a good (or even a working) solution to my problem.

How not to get the job done, after it’s done

I fell to the elusive thought of documenting the Xcode 4 template system perfectly. I couldn’t succeed because almost by definition you can’t perfectly document a system that is in itself imperfect, flawed, incomplete and merely designed to be used for the things it is used for, no more no less. It’s not even designed to be used by others, or it would have been documented by Apple. I now have a very good understanding of why it was never documented, it just makes sense. My suspicion is that they don’t even edit the templates manually but instead rely on tools to do most of this job. And there seem to be a couple bad hacks in there too.

I had to accept that I’ll have to look for other ways for Kobold2D users to start new projects because of several technical limitations of the Xcode 4 template system: it can’t deal with cross-referenced projects and it’s unbearable for projects with hundreds of files. One of the important goals for Kobold2D was to provide a variety of meaningful, working project templates. Very simple demo games. They’ll have to be created somehow, and sadly I had to come to terms that this won’t be possible within Xcode (4) and has to be done through some other means (and ideally not manually).

Trying to find a solution for Kobold2D project templates kept me working on the documentation even though I should have realized that I have already documented way more than what most people would need for their file and project templates. I couldn’t stop looking for a Project Template solution for Kobold2D, it seemed so close and other solutions so far – so I didn’t even spend time considering those other solutions. Awww, the horror of working alone. No one to kick your butt in the right direction, away from perfection and towards getting the job done. :)

Decision

So today I decided that I’ll wrap up the Xcode 4 Template documentation I have so far, which is quite a lot nevertheless (currently 57 pages as PDF), and then start selling the document for $10 instead of $15 because it’s not as complete as I intended it to be. Watch for it in the next few days. I’ll let you know.

Cocos2D installer updated, added Cocos3D

On April 6, 2011, in Announcements, cocos2d, support, Xcode, by Steffen Itterheim

I have updated the unofficial Cocos2D installer to include the cocos2d-iphone-v1.0.0-rc version so that you can use the Xcode 4 templates. I also added Cocos3D so that you don’t have to run its install scripts anymore.

The installer now installs the following folders to your ~/Documents folder:

  • cocos2d-iphone-0.99.5 (latest stable)
  • cocos2d-iphone-1.0.0-rc (latest unstable)
  • cocos3d-0.5.3 (latest beta)

Warning: Project Templates are buggy!

Depending on Cocos2D/3D version and the version of Xcode, you’ll notice that some of the project templates will not compile without manually fixing some compile errors. This has nothing to do with the installer, the same thing happens when you install the templates manually with the .sh scripts.

For example, the project templates for cocos2d-iphone-1.0.0-rc do not work in Xcode 3 – the ones for Xcode 4 work fine. The Cocos3D project template does not work out of the box in Xcode 4, you have to manually copy and add the Cocos3D files (refer to the readme for more info). The version for Xcode 3 works fine.

Based on the Xcode version you currently use for developing new Cocos2D projects:

  • Xcode 3: use the Cocos2D v0.99.5 and Cocos3D Project Templates to start new projects. You can manually update to Cocos2D v1.0.0 afterwards.
  • Xcode 4: you will have to start with Cocos2D v1.0.0 (rc). If you want to develop Cocos3D applications, refer to the readme to learn the manual steps involved in creating a working Cocos3D project.
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Cocos2D Podcast Introduction online!

On April 4, 2011, in book, cocos2d, podcast, by Steffen Itterheim

The first Cocos2D Podcast with Mohammad Azam (@azamsharp) from HighOnCoding.com and me is now online. Refer to the Cocos2D Podcast website for show notes and web links.

Listen to the Cocos2D Podcast (36 minutes).

And here’s the iTunes link for the Cocos2D Podcast.

Addendums

… to be laid off is kind of cool.

No, that’s not a freudian slip but not the whole story either. 😀

As the layoffs hit EA Phenomic and it was disclosed to us that we’ll never be working on 3D games for PC and consoles anymore, and instead we’ll be focusing on making webgames, you’d be either in the position where you would have to be laid off (eg 3D Artists) – which admittedly wasn’t “cool”. But if you were in a position like me where you could expect to stay with the company, but you simply had no interest in making webgames, you could volunteer to be put on the layoff list. The “cool” thing about that is that you wouldn’t have to quit, which makes a big difference in terms of compensation and treatment you reveice from the company as well as getting state support for unemployment. And you could save someone else’s job who actually wanted to stay with the company. So that was just a nice way to handle an otherwise difficult situation.

Also, as far as I know almost everyone who was laid off quickly got a new job or started new careers as freelancers. Some even moved abroad to the UK and Canada to work for Ubisoft. Most went on to work for Crytek and Blue Byte. And even those who I expected were going to have a hard time getting a new job in the game industry, mostly due to lack of experience and achievements, found new employment in other game studios small and big. I find this noteworthy because whenever situations like EA Spouse, the Red Dead Redemption crunch or the layoffs and shutdowns in 2008/2009, there’s going to be a huge amount of worry expressed by employees that they don’t want to be fired because there’s no one else hiring. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

The game industry was and still is an industry where it is ridiculously easy to get a job – even with little qualification and experience – but at the same time notorious for those who “made it” to sustain the worst working conditions. This probably goes hand in hand. I know that those who landed their first game development job were very eager to keep it (me included), and they know or (even worse) suspect that there are likely better hires out there than oneself. Which in fact is sometimes reinforced by management, but my experiences trying to hire qualified staff tells a different story: it’s really, really hard to find qualified game developers which is why it’s so easy to get in because you often have no other choice but to hire from those who applied, not necessarily from those you wish would have applied. So game developers maybe trying to prove themselves harder and are more concerned about their job safety than they need to be.

Celsius / Fahrenheit

Turns out I wasn’t too far off with my guess: 25 ºC = 77 ºF

Not as hot as Texas of course, but relatively speaking a hot day for spring in germany.

Stressful

At one point I mentioned that the popularity I gained from writing the Learn Cocos2D book, plus the websites I run, can be “stressful”. I’m referring to the obligation and personal responsibility that I feel towards people seeking my help. One of the strongest negative feelings I have is looking at all those requests, knowing I can’t help all of them, and not knowing where to start answering. I don’t even have a good way to measure who needs my help the most.

Some of the questions are easy to answer, but that also means they are already answered if you go look around (google is your friend). Other questions are challenging, and I like that because they pick my brain, but answering those would require at least an hour or more of research and would seriously cut into the time I need for other tasks. And a third class of question is simply those I can’t answer, or at least not by email. That’s either because I lack the knowledge and experience on the subject matter (for example, I barely have any Cocoa Touch programming experience yet), or because it requires a fair amount of understanding of project-specific details, including design goals and the actual source code. Then there’s countless of job inquiries which as a professional I feel I should at least politely decline but even that is eating up quite a bit of time.

I feel a certain responsibility to answer everyone’s inquiries, be it about a specific programming problem or seeking someone to hire in order to get their game project done, which is why it’s so hard for me not to do it. And that in turn causes stress, or anxiety. But as I started receiving more and more of these requests I was lagging behind answering them, up to the point where I had to purposefully ignore most of the requests. I needed to face reality and cut down on the total time I spend communicating while still getting the essential tasks done (client work or the projects I set myself out to do). Though necessary to ignore most requests, to me it still doesn’t feel right, or fair, especially after I promised to be responsive. This is what creates the stress I was referring to. It’s something I have to come to terms with and I can only apologize for it.

I decided to alleviate that situation by monitoring all of these requests and figure out what the most pressing issues are, and then focus on fixing what I call the “big picture issues”, be it by programming or documenting. Kobold2D is one such effort to fix the ongoing issue of getting to work with Cocos2D (template installation, project configuration, setting up libraries). The Xcode 4 Template Documentation is my attempt to fix the information void about Xcode 4 templates, especially since every bit of information about Xcode 3 Templates is null and void due to the significant format changes.

Book Update

The contract is signed, this summer an updated version of the Learn Cocos2D book will be published. It will likely be titled “Learn iPhone 5 and iPad 2 Cocos2D Game Development” and change all the source code to be compatible with v1.0 of Cocos2D. There will also be two new chapters which will be revealed at a later time. And I’ll fix the erratas that have been reported thus far.

One of the things I want to fix is that working entirely from the book will not cause compile errors anymore, this specifically means adding some more source code to chapters 3 and 4 I believe, where I’ve omitted a few lines of code in the first edition. The Game Center chapter will be improved to include the data send/receive example. There will certainly be a couple more changes in regards to iOS 5 (if available at the time) and new devices like iPad 2 and iPhone 5 obviously, and miscellaneous changes here and there.

As usual I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Xcode 4 Template Documentation & Cocos2D Podcast

On April 1, 2011, in cocos2d, Kobold2D, podcast, Xcode, by Steffen Itterheim

Xcode 4 Template Documentation


UPDATE:

You can get the Xcode 4 Template Documentation here!


The Xcode 4 Template Documentation has grown to nearly 40 pages (PDF) now, with only a few images and just reference material. The reference materials are nearly complete, including placeholders, variables and explanations for the use of every key available for Xcode 4 templates and a FAQ section. I still have to add the step-by-step tutorials (including example templates) for creating your own File Templates and Project Templates, and final proof reading and corrections.

Because the Xcode 4 Template Documentation has grown so big and I’ve already invested 50+ hours in it I want to try an experiment to see if creating documentation at this level of detail is sustainable. I’ll charge a small fee for access to the document, the standard price will be $15 and I’ll start selling it at an introductory price for a short period of time.

If this works out well in terms of revenue vs time investment I will likely offer more such in-depth documentation in the future. I was thinking that 50+ sales per month at $15 is a reasonable goal, and at this rate it would certainly be a welcome incentive for writing more documentation – next to me being generally inquisitive and interested in digesting challenging and diverse subjects.

I think the success of my book also ought to tell me that I can provide such in-depth treatments of game development topics. There’s certainly a lot of need for documentation on Cocos2D in general, but also there’s a big gap in general between what online documentation and tutorials offer (which often are only written for absolute beginners and/or to capture search engine traffic) versus the need of developers to learn more about a challenging niche subject in detail, including hard facts, recommendations, tips and tricks.

Cocos2D Podcast: coming soon …

Mohammad Azam aka @azamsharp recently approached me with the idea of creating a Cocos2D Podcast series. Azam has a lot of experience with creating podcasts and screencasts for the .NET crowd, and he has been a Cocos2D developer for about 6 months now with 4 kids apps already published to the App Store.

Two weeks ago we had a first dry run using Skype and liked the results, so we’re ready to record our first podcast this weekend if nothing gets in the way. I’m excited to try and see where we can take the Cocos2D Podcast and how you will like it.

The first podcast will be an introduction about ourselves and how we ended up working with Cocos2D, before we move on to trending topics in the Cocos2D space. If you have a suggestion for what we should discuss, or if you have a particular question that you like to get answered, please let me know (write a comment).

An apology

Lastly I wanted to apologize for missing last week’s update and not having much to report on this week. I was sick with a bad cold for the last ~10 days so nothing much happened in terms of Kobold2D or the Xcode 4 Template documentation. I’m still working on both of course.

I’m also responding to fewer and fewer emails, comments and forum posts as I’m getting swamped with them while spending a lot of time on other tasks. I realized I have to face the fact that as I gain popularity (much of it thanks to my book) I can no longer tend to everyone. Instead I’ll focus on listening in and providing value for a greater number of developers rather than responding to individual request. I’m sorry and I hope you understand.

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