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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Kobold Kit Progress, KoboldTouch Update

On July 11, 2013, in idevblogaday, by Steffen Itterheim

This post will be unusually short because I’m going on vacation tomorrow (July 12th) and won’t be back before July 22nd.

I’ll use this post for a quick progress report on Kobold Kit.

Kobold Kit Progress

Kobold Kit is going more and more in a rapid-development direction, with fewer interruptions. Here’s the corresponding video to that:

It is also heavily gearing towards tilemap rendering and physics integration. We’re making a game with Kobold Kit which will become a Platformer Starterkit as well as a published game. It will also be featured in an upcoming book.

When I say we, I mean that a former colleague of mine (Marcus) has teamed up with me. He’s a game designer and Tiled user, so I get lots of good feedback on how to improve and move things in the right direction. You’ll see more of his work when we’re both back from our vacations in August.

The fact that I haven’t posted on the koboldkit.com blog for a week only means we were very busy making lots of smaller improvements to the platformer game we’re developing. I’ll be away for 1 week so I wanted to ensure that Marcus can get some work done while I’m away.

This is one other plus about this partnership: Kobold Kit will decouple as many tasks as possible from programming work and offload them to editing tools, configuration files and scripting. These improvements are beneficial to the programmers as well because they enable or speed up rapid prototyping.

And if you do happen to work with designers, your attention will not be required as often. If you haven’t done so in the past, you probably can’t appreciate what that means. But try anyway. ;)

Since Kobold Kit is so heavily integrated with Tiled, we decided to sponsor Thorbjørn Lindeijer and Tiled beginning August 1st. I also sent him my old Mac mini so he can setup daily builds for OS X.

We have also secured several sponsors ourselves, and we’re very excited about one in particular, but we don’t want to spoil the fun with a premature announcement. All in due time.

PS: In case you haven’t built the latest Tiled source code: you’re seriously missing out on the reworked properties pane (no longer a modal dialog). Here’s a OS X build of the Tiled source code (June 29th) if you want to give it a try. Thanks to Andreas Löw who built it for me.

KoboldTouch Update

I have received very little support or feature requests in the past weeks. I take this as a sign of maturity. At this point development on KoboldTouch is on hold until some time after the release of Sprite Kit (iOS 7). I will tend to serious bugs of course, and already made a compatibility fix for iOS 7 and Xcode 5.

I can’t say whether KoboldTouch will continue to incorporate cocos2d v3 or not. This depends on too many hard to predict variables:

Will cocos2d-iphone v3 be competitive compared to Sprite Kit and still used by a considerable number of developers? Will users be interested enough in an MVC framework with extras? Will cocos2d v3 perhaps take the chance and improve in ways that make KoboldTouch much less attractive? And how much or for how long is development time best spent (exclusively) on Kobold Kit, how much danger is there in splitting efforts?

I take a “wait and see” approach. The hope I have is that cocos2d will trim down its own API and copy the Sprite Kit API and behavior to become a natural, seamless “upgrade path” for Sprite Kit developers (drop-in replacement).

It won’t work any other way, or would you willingly switch from, say, MapKit to an open source alternative (route-me)? Only if you absolutely have to, am I right? Though the only “must have” feature that cocos2d will always offer over Sprite Kit requires an advanced skill set to exploit it in the first place.

But all of that is speculative at this point. If you’re a KoboldTouch developer or want to become one, you’ll get the support as always and you’ll be able to publish your game two years from now. That’s guaranteed.

As KoboldTouch user you’re also going to be Kobold Kit customers, I won’t charge KoboldTouch users twice. And if you want early access to Kobold Kit, sign up to Kobold Touch and check the forum. Since I can only unlock you manually you’ll have to wait until I’m back though.

Signing up to KoboldTouch now makes perfect sense because you’ll pay forever less than Kobold Kit customers, and it helps our efforts in more ways than just financially.

See you in 10 days!

What goes into a game engine? A long list.

On June 17, 2013, in Kobold Kit, by Steffen Itterheim

Cocos2D is a rendering engine. Note the emphasis. 90% of what it does is draw stuff onto the screen and animate it. It adds some input processing and scheduling and the rest is up to you.

A game engine is to cocos2d what cocos2d is to OpenGL. The list of things I want in an actual game engine is long.

The iOS mobile platform has advanced far enough that a pure rendering engine just isn’t that much of a help anymore. We’re effectively moving back towards where we were back in 2008 if we don’t start pushing the boundaries, hard.

Here are some ideas I have for and would like to see in a 2D game engine, in no particular order. It is not a feature list for Kobold Kit, but it does reflect what I want to make possible with / encourage for Kobold Kit.

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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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Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 01.46.23I’m currently working on a new tilemap renderer for KoboldTouch.

I now have an early version that’s fairly complete and does most of what cocos2d’s tilemap renderer can do. Pun intended: yes, cocos2d’s tilemap renderer really doesn’t do all that much: load and display tilemaps with multiple layers.

In fact my current implementation is one step ahead already:

KoboldTouch’s tilemap renderer doesn’t require you to use -hd/-ipad/-ipadhd TMX files and the related (often hard to use or buggy/broken) TMX scaling tools. Just use the same TMX file designed for standard resolution, then simply provide just the tileset images in the various sizes with the corresponding -hd/-ipad/-ipadhd suffixes. The tilemap looks the same on a Retina device, just with more image detail.

Performance Comparison

Anyhow, I thought I’ll do some quick performance tests. I have a test map with 2 layers and a tiny tileset (3 tiles, 40×40 points). I’m comparing both in the same KoboldTouch project, using the slim MVC wrapper (named KTLegacyTilemapViewController) for cocos2d’s tilemap renderer CCTMXTiledMap.

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KoboldTouch v6.0 Done – v6.1 with improved Tilemap Renderer

On December 8, 2012, in KoboldTouch, by Steffen Itterheim

I completed KoboldTouch v6.0 today. Time to let you know what changed and what will be coming for v6.1.

KoboldTouch v6.0 – Foundation

This version mostly included changes moving from Kobold2D to KoboldTouch. I had already removed superfluous libraries, so KT now only includes Cocos2D with CocosDenshion and the Cocos2D extensions project, the Kobold2D and KoboldTouch source code obviously and Box2D.

But there’s more of course:

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Since I started working on KoboldTouch a couple things fell into place. Mainly that it would:

Provide what Cocos2D leaves up to its users. Fixes what Cocos2D does badly. Adds what Cocos2D doesn’t do at all. Eases development with Cocos2D and accommodates actual developer needs.

While Cocos2D is moving towards cross-platform with their Javascript API, KoboldTouch will focus on adding & improving game design features.

I have a hunch most Cocos2D developers have better iOS/Mac integration and game-specific features higher up on their wish list than cross-platform. Most of you are indies, hobbyists, pragmatists and Apple enthusiasts without the need or resources to do cross-platform development.

UPDATE: KoboldTouch is now available!

KoboldTouch: Spiritual Successor

I first started working on KoboldTouch a few weeks back. I initially undersold it as a “MVC wrapper for Cocos2D”. With what I have in mind spiritual successor of Cocos2D is more like it.

It’s going to be a framework to program iOS & Mac games in, where best practices evolve naturally, where Cocoa programmers feel right at home, where beginners are not left in a void * EXC_BAD_ACCESS … and where Cocos2D is still at the heart of it.

KoboldTouch takes control over Cocos2D, to allows users to implement best practices naturally. Cocos2D provides the view, KoboldTouch provides the controllers, models and the framework to write your code in.

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KoboldTouch – 2D Game Development

On September 14, 2012, in , by Steffen Itterheim

 

KoboldTouch brings you the best 2D game development experience for Apple’s platforms!

KoboldTouch is the only Objective-C, ARC-enabled 2D game engine built on the Model-View-Controller (MVC) design pattern. Write ambitious games with greater ease!

KoboldTouch is also a continuously evolving, customer driven game development framework for iOS & Mac OS X, designed by game industry veterans to incorporate game development best practices and decades of experience.


Learn more about KoboldTouch features and what’s in it for you:

Open the “About KoboldTouch” Page for Details


Not quite ready for KoboldTouch yet?

Fill out the KoboldTouch Survey. Let us know what you think of KT and how to make it better.


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