Getting set up with FlashDevelop

David Shaw, 10:50 am 15th November 2011
Posted under: Flash

FlashPunk has a bunch of tutorials that will cover all of this in more detail with an emphasis on FlashPunk. But I’ll skim the details of what I’m doing as well, as there’s a few quirks specific to my own direction.

  • Install FlashDevelop. FlashDevelop is a free ActionScript IDE that makes working with Flash projects a lot easier. The alternatives are buying Adobe Flash Builder or hacking around compiling with the free Flex SDK on the command line, so for starting out FlashDevelop is the recommended way to go. FlashDevelop version 4 is out so it was time to upgrade the version I had previously installed.
  • Install the Flex SDK if you need to. This is the framework that compiles and builds the Flash apps from the AcrionScript files. Previously you had to install this manually, but the newer versions of FlashDevelop will install Flex for you. This saves all possible amounts of hassle and fiddling around with both Flex and FlashDevelop, so thanks FlashDevelop devs!
  • Configure FlashDevelop. Which at the moment isn’t much, as I think the defaults are fine. All I needed to do was change the default editor font from Courier New to something more appealing. I forgot that to change the font, you need to go tp the colour settings rather than preferences. It took a stupid amount of time to figure this out.
  • Install FlashPunk into a project directory. That’s as simple as unpacking the zip. Next!
  • Get that sucker under version control. I’m using Mercurial so I can copy the whole project between computers without any fuss.

And that’s all the basics. Next up, learning the basics of FlashPunk via the tutorials!

Aaaaaaand I’m back.

David Shaw, 11:02 am 7th November 2011
Posted under: Blog Babble

Aaaaaaand I’m back.

So yeah, I’m finished with the stuff that’s been causing me to stagnate and burn out and I’m heading back where I left off all those many months ago. It’s going to take some effort to get back where I was, but hey, the site’s still here. I’m not giving this up just yet.

I’ve debated with myself as to whether to reboot the site or even rename it to something else to signify a fresh start, but frankly that would involve an extra few days of unnecessary busy work that can be put to better use. It’s better to keep posting on this perfectly serviceable blog and focus on making actual content than twiddling administrative changes. I may start another site in the future for the serious side of things with this repurposed as my informal friendly blog site, but for now informal friendly blogging is the smart thing to do.

What I aim to do here is get back into game making again, and specifically get back into prototyping and testing ideas. It’s an attempt to regain the game development bug again and go wild.

To this end I’ll be looking at Flash/ActionScript game development, at least to begin with. I’m starting with FlashPunk as the stepladder into ActionScript and try building a few prototypes. Nothing too gee-whiz fancy to begin with; something that can both reignite that dev spark while also seeing whether Flash is a good tool for quickly throwing ideas up on the web.

I’ll be blogging this as I go. I expect tons of mistakes and the possible need to change tack or reverse several times, but that’s part of the fun!

To start: covering the basics of getting a FlashPunk game up and running. Eventually I want to try out some AI routines for a top-down Asteroids-like shooter game, but to get there I’ll first need an Asteroids-like shooter game to work off.


David Shaw, 3:40 am 30th June 2010
Posted under: Blog Babble

Update! I meant to make this post a while ago, but I kept getting hung up on the details so I’ll keep this informal and brief.

Things got derailed in the early part of the year, and now I’ve let things drag through out the whole first half it’s time to re-rail them again. Since I’ve let things get so cold my reboot in July might take a while to warm up. I’m currently picking things up with a quick exploration of some of the fine game development libraries, languages and related tech out there to see what clicks best with me for rapid development. I’m hoping to get back into making prototypes and refill my game idea pool with some creative experimentation.

Humble Indie Bundle

David Shaw, 1:45 am 5th May 2010
Posted under: Blog Babble

In case you haven’t found out about this anywhere else, there’s a great indie deal at the moment: The Humble Indie Bundle. It’s one of those “pay whatever you wish” dealies, and contains a sweet package of cross-platform titles: World of Goo, Aquaria, Gish, Lugaru and Penumbra, with the option to donate some money to Child’s Play or the EFF. This is one of the best indie game deals I’ve seen; those are some damn fine titles there, and with the charity options as well this deserves to do well. The deal runs for about 6 more days, so if you haven’t checked it out already I would heartily recommend it.

The site again: The Humble Indie Bundle

May update

David Shaw, 12:57 am 2nd May 2010
Posted under: Blog Babble

Hey everyone – quick update to prove that I’m not dead.

I know I’ve been letting this webspace slide for longer than I should, but I still need to clear up some non-Trazoi related work as a priority in May. Once that’s done, I should have the time to implement a site reboot and really get to grips with creating online content for this place in early June.

Until then, I might post up some indie game reviews on May weekends that I’ve got partially written and been meaning to put up, but there’s a danger I might leave the place mournfully neglected. The blogging bug never seems to bite for me.

Indie Strategy Games Bundle

David Shaw, 11:00 pm 5th March 2010
Posted under: Blog Babble

Long time no post – hopefully I can change that this month. For now though, here’s just an interesting deal I stumbled across on the internet. There’s an indie strategy games bundle out for the weekend, containing Gratuitous Space Battles, Solium Infernum and AI War. It’s US$49.95 and available only until March 9th. Windows only it seems, but worth looking into if you’re interested in indie strategy.

You can check out the details at

PhD re-edit time

David Shaw, 9:19 am 7th January 2010
Posted under: Blog Babble

My immediate plans for January have been mildly derailed due to PhD issues. I’ve finally got my examiner reviews back and they request some additional material and another resubmission. It’s my own fault for leaving some serious holes in there and not submitting the strongest dissertation I could have mustered; the last year I was so sick of the whole thing I just wanted to get the whole thing behind me. The theories are sound, so hopefully if I put in some more results and a better eye to presentation it will be a lot stronger. Unfortunately that means requires a fair amount of time which will temporarily have to eat into game development. I’d wished to get the thing complete in 2009, but there was a six month delay in examination. This means the thesis will most likely be still hanging over my head in some form for most of 2010, with still the off-chance at the end of it I might fail the whole thing. Oh well, better make the most of it.

Because of this I won’t have a Python game ready at the end of the week; it might have to wait until next week. I’m planning on putting in a solid few days on correcting and planning that takes priority so I can gauge what needs to be done and make me feel a bit more in control. Once that’s over, while I’ll be spending a fair chunk of January working on this I should be able to slot it between game development tasks, so I’ll still have things to talk about here. I’m not that sure how long the whole process will take, but I suspect I’ll have the bulk of everything finished by March. I might not post more about the PhD corrections until it’s out of my hair, since I don’t want to derail the blog into writer’s rants. ;)

Welcome, 2010!

David Shaw, 3:24 am 4th January 2010
Posted under: Blog Babble

2010 – it’s not just a new year, it’s a brand new decade! Gee, this only makes the nineties feel that much further in the past. Hope everyone has had or is having a good holiday!

I had planned on starting the year with a review of last year, but I don’t think I will dwell on it. I can’t in all honesty say my performance in game development over 2009 was stellar; far from it. It’s pretty clear that my main issue has been a lack of focus, which has led me to be all over the shop. As a consequence, I’m roughly where I could have been at the end of last July. No point crying over spilt milk, but it does mean my top new year’s resolution is to develop a better awareness of how I spend my time.

More important is a plan for what to do this year. I’ll need some time this week to fully work a plan out, but again I won’t go overboard. At its heart, the languishing plan for 2009 was sound. The key to focus on is content creation. Last year I got bogged down with fear over whether what I was doing was good enough, sellable, or done in the right way, rather than focusing on just making stuff. Roughly, I think the plan should go something like: make stuff, make unique stuff, and then thinking about making a living off making unique stuff ;) . It’s slightly generalised and I may need to accelerate things over a few months depending on how far I want to take the “making a living” part, but it rings true. That means I may have to spend a month (or two) to find my feet and a further month (or three) to find my groove before seriously thinking about something that leads to income, but instinct say it’s necessary. I’m a bit wary of my instinct though, as I also feel if I don’t dip my toe into the market in 2010 then I probably never will. It’s effectively a do or die year.

Top on the list of things to do is more of those week long projects. I was doing prep work for a Python & pygame one before the holiday period distracted me with mince pies. I’m kicking myself for not making good on my promise to fully explore Python last year, as my refresher reminded me why I chose it. Python appears to suit my style of quick development quite well, and if I put in the time to properly learn it it should be a good language for the majority of my in-house work. Python seems to be extremely well suited for small scripts, tools and probably prototypes. Even if I do have to rewrite everything in C or C++ for whatever reason, it’s probably faster to mock up the architecture in Python first. I’ll need to trial Python first with some of these small projects, but I’ve got a good feeling about it.

Following on a suggestion in the comments, I’ll start with a fairly unoriginal Asteroids-like game in Python using the pygame library. The point of the exercise isn’t to do anything particularly original, but to get a feel for the pros and cons of developing a game in Python.

An aside on Dragon Age: Origins for Mac

David Shaw, 3:06 am 18th December 2009
Posted under: Blog Babble

I’ve noticed that Dragon Age: Origins is coming out for the Mac. I don’t have a very powerful Windows PC so I’d been considering getting this for the Xbox 360, but now I see I have another option.

Some thoughts on the port:

  • The Mac version requires Mac OS X 10.6.2 Snow Leopard, the latest version of the OS. I’m not sure why; I didn’t think there was that big a difference between Leopard and Snow Leopard. I’m guessing it’s because they’ve got a limited test budget and they assume Macs upgrade their OSes more readily than Windows. So I’d have to upgrade to play the game (grumble).
  • Despite that, given GameTree is charging US prices it is actually cheaper for me to buy Dragon Age: Origins for Mac from them and upgrade to Snow Leopard than it would be for me to buy Dragon Age: Origins for the Xbox 360 here in Australia. Getting the deluxe version with all the add-ons (and Snow Leopard) comes out to roughly the same.
  • Listing the required video card as “ATI X1600 or NVIDIA 7300 or higher” is totally meaningless. I haven’t followed video card specs closely for years, so as if I know offhand whether the ATI Radeon HD 2600 is better than a X1600 or not. They could at least give a useful metric like “Did you buy your iMac in the last three years? If so, you’re probably good”.
  • It would be nice to know if the Mac version will be compatible with mods made for the PC. If it was, that would be a big incentive to get it for the Mac. There’s a competing incentive for the Xbox 360 version in that I can loan the disc to family and friends who are more likely to have a console than a Mac.

Project Tarot: End of week

David Shaw, 12:58 am 17th December 2009
Posted under: Blog Babble

Project Tarot - Tile Prototype

The week is over, and technically I failed. Bummer.

What I did get done was a tile-based prototype, shown above in the screen shot. It’s an experiment for what a tile based puzzle game would be like if the tiles consisted of two colours, split at the diagonals. In the version above, the coloured sections get highlighted if there’s a connection chain of four or more tiles long. Unfortunately, it’s currently just a toy. I didn’t think of a good way to make a game out of it. I was on my way to experimenting with a Tetris-like mechanic – matched tiles disappear, replaced with tiles above – but I ran out of time.

I might continue working on this at some stage, but I’m doubtful. Coloured tile games don’t excite me as a developer, mostly because I suspect every single gameplay combination has been done to death by now. I’m also not sure if it’s worth posting the prototype: it’s not fun, dead simple, Mac OS X only and spits log files into a subdirectory in your Library folder that you need to clean up after. Maybe next time. Part of the point of just having a week is that if I need to walk away, it doesn’t feel like much of a waste.

I’ll need some time to evaluate what went right and wrong from this exercise, but I’ve got some ideas of how things went off the top of my head.

First: I need to organise my time better. I just dove in, and while the time pressures helped me stay focused to begin with I went a bit all over the place with my focus. It would have helped to spend an hour or two at the beginning figuring out exactly what my objectives are, the best way to achieve them in the time available and pitfalls to avoid. With the haphazard approach I can get focused with deadlines, but I’m easily distracted by non-essential things. I also lost a lot of energy at the end which is part of the reason why I only got a prototype done.

Second: prototyping in C is a pain. Having a better set of in-built functionality at my fingertips would give me a lot more flexibility. I wouldn’t have to waste hours of work trying to think of a C friendly way to do the tile connection counting algorithm.

Third: prototyping puzzle game ideas in a short period of time is hard. I suspect if I just did a simple action game I’d have got something finished in the time. It’s easy to kludge together something amusing in the action game genre, but puzzle games live or die on their core mechanic. I don’t know if this is inherent to the genre or just my lack of practice with the area.

Fourth: if I’m not excited by the idea, then it’s really hard to crunch development. I didn’t exactly go “full out” in developing this one, a conscious decision to see whether it could be done with a sensible workload. But I confess it also meant I slacked off the pace in the last couple of days when minor issues reared their head and made completion all that more challenging. Maybe if I really loved the idea I might have sweated through the headaches (metaphorical and literal), the random Xcode crashes (grr) and the heat. But in the end, yesterday I effectively waved a white flag when it was clear I was out of time. I feel bad about that.

So… where to from here? I might have not completed an actual game, but it was a good exercise. My feeling is I should repeat the process until I get good at it. There’s one week between now and Christmas; that’s plenty of time for another small game attempt. This time, I’d like to give Python a whirl as a comparison. I need a theme though. I’m happy for any suggestions, otherwise I’ll take something at random in the next few hours.