For Kobold Kit (the Sprite Kit game engine) we’re working on Super Stick Spy, a 2D platformer game. Like so many others, we started out using the (Box2D) physics engine that’s so neatly integrated in Sprite Kit to get everything up and running quickly.

But we knew full well that for the final product, we’ll have to scrap the physics engine altogether and follow best practices when it comes to platformer-programming.

Now with the demo version nearing completion (see video) I can tell you in full detail why you don’t want to use a physics engine for a 2D platformer!

Music by Alexandr Zhelanov

Moving Platform Hell

A moving platform with physics needs to be a dynamic body. Don’t even try moving static bodies, at least in Box2D that will end up in jumpy movement of the body. Though kinematic bodies work better (if available).

The player or other game characters standing on a moving physics body will have the platform slide underneath their feet. The characters won’t magically move along with the platform! And there is no feature in the physics engine that lets you set this up. You have to program it to synchronize character movement with the platform they’re currently standing on, and end the synchronization as soon as a character lifts its feet up from the platform.

Which can be a problem for downward-moving platforms as the player loses contact with the platform every other frame, starts falling, and lands right back on the platform. To put it in Homer’s words: “Doh, doh, doh, doh, doh, doh, doh …”. So you need to make the character stick to the platform, yet allow him to fall off of the ledges and jump, and possibly also allow him to be forced off the ground by normal collision events (projectile impact, platform moving through a tiny crevice).

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Generate Tilemap Physics Collision Shapes with Cocos2D

On June 1, 2013, in idevblogaday, by Steffen Itterheim

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 00.59.01 You have a tilemap and you want physics collisions on it? The solution seems obvious: create a rectangle shape for every blocking tile.

But ouch! This solution is not just hugely wasteful and unnecessarily slows down the physics collision code, it also introduces the well known problem of characters getting stuck even on flat surfaces.

This is in particular a problem for Box2D because its collision mechanic doesn’t work well with flat surfaces subdivided into smaller segments (rectangle shapes in this case).

A workable but still very awkward solution to work around this behavior is to create characters with bevelled edges at the character shape’s bottom at the risk of bopping characters as they walk about the map.

Lupines in the Moore Neighborhood

A good solution to generate physics collisions is to implement the Moore Neighborhood algorithm to generate chain shapes which are more suitable for tilemap collisions. The downside is that adding or removing individual blocking tiles at runtime requires updating the shapes – this is not implemented in this project.

Every flat surface, no matter how many tiles form the surface, will then consist of only one straight collision segment. Here’s a quick demo video of the project discussed in this post that shows the algorithm at work and the resulting “game”:

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Detecting collisions on pixel-perfect boundaries is the holy grail of collision detection in 2D games. As such, it seems like the ideal, if not to say perfect, solution to collision detection in general. Yet, it’s also quite complicated and the straightforward solutions don’t perform very well until you start optimizing the code.

This first post focuses on creating a pixel mask by analyzing the raw image data, as proposed over 3 years ago by Ernesto Corvi. It’s the fastest solution if you want to test if a point collides with a pixel on an image, which also works for rotated and scaled sprites. However it does take some optimizing to speed up detecting collisions between a bounding box of a node and the pixel mask, or two pixel masks.

The alternative solution is to render the two colliding objects onto a CCRenderTexture, as developed by Dani and others on the Cocos2D forum. It is able to detect collisions of arbitrarily rotated and scaled sprites but can be expected to be noticeably slower than a pixel mask. I will discuss this solution in a future iDevBlogADay post.

The results will find their way into Kobold2D, to make the solutions readily available to all developers.

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Continuing with yesterday’s Box2D Car demo I’d like to stay on the topic of Box2D and present to you the Tilemap based Box2D world put together by theTconcept, a website hosted by a group of italian and mexican designers, writers and coders.

In their tutorial they explain how to create Box2D collisions from a Tiled Map Editor world, by using the object group layer. The one you can use to place arbitrary rectangles on in Tiled. The resulting Xcode project is available for download.

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cocos2d Book, Chapter 9: Particle Effects

On August 21, 2010, in Announcements, book, cocos2d, by Steffen Itterheim

Chapter 9 – Particle Effects

Those tiny specks which you can see on your touchscreen after a sneeze.

Not exactly. Of course I mean the cocos2d particle system and its built-in particle effects which will be the focus of this chapter. And no discussion of particles would be complete without describing the workflow revolving around the Particle Designer tool.

Summary of working on Chapter 8 – Shoot ’em Up

This certainly wasn’t the easiest chapter for me to write. I had very ambitious goals, maybe too ambitious for 27 pages. I did manage to sneak in quite a lot though, here’s a partial list:

  • how to refactor existing code to make it work better with the new features
  • how to pool bullets and enemies together for easier access and better performance
  • how to not use too many subclasses, instead relying on type switches
  • how to use cocos2d’s node hierarchy as a simple component system for writing reusable game logic components
  • how to implement basic movement, shooting and a healthbar as components
  • how to detect collisions between bullets and enemies

The not so easy part was striking the right balance. Not going too technical. Not doing too much at once. Not dividing things into too many tiny pieces. But most of all I frequently encountered various bugs in the code, or just unexpected behavior of cocos2d which forced me to spend more time debugging and sometimes backtracking changes than I was prepared for.

After a long and hard work week, paired with physical exhaustion and an late-summer allergy burst, my concentration didn’t allow me to work at 100% capacity. In the end I did manage but it took longer than I had planned, I’m over a day late to submit this chapter. The next one will be easier though, and it has to be as I’m preparing for a short trip near the end of next week. I certainly am looking forward to a couple days off now. :)