Categories
Uncategorized

Adventure Game Engine

Many years ago I wrote a “choose your own path” adventure game for the iPhone. Its engine was compact, simple and very flexible, even though I wrote it in an afternoon. The game was rubbish and I always thought it deserved better.

Apparently a few years later I rewrote it in .Net possibly with an eye to makeing another app for it. Anyway I think the public probably have more use for it than I do now, so I am making it freely available.

At its heart it is a bunch of “pages” with “options” that take you to other pages. You could write a simple game with just that. It also, however, has variables. These are things like flags, text and numbers. You can display these in the game (“your name is Shaun, you have 6 pickled eggs”) and you can also use them to control what text is displayed and what optiuons are available to the user. Add in the ability to randomise things and you have a game that never plays the same way twice.

Another idea is that the same game can have different front ends. You can play it in a DOS box with coloured text and keyboard input but play it on a phone (iOS and Android coming at some point) and it will be fancy coloured HTML with hyperlinks, pictures and buttons. You could probably even stick it on a web site.

Currently I am just finishing the basic functionality. This includes

  • Load
  • Save
  • Colouring text
  • “Hot reload” while editing
  • Maybe some sort of validation for game editing
Categories
Uncategorized

Why I Wrote WebcomiX

I have always been into comics and computers. Webcomics are a nice combination of the two. I remember reading McClouds “Understanding Comics” and the high tech sequel “Reinventing Comics” when they first came out. Shortly after that I discovered XKCD and the rest is history.

The thing is though, that was 20 years ago and webcomics havn’t really progressed. CDs and DVDs gave way to streaming, talking to peole gave way to social media and web comics are still first/last/prev/next with a homepage that shows the latest episode. I hate to say it but any media that hasn’t advanced in 20 years is a evolutionary dead end, and that includes webcomics. And no, having a button to share it on facebook is not a major advance.

any media that hasn’t advanced in 20 years is a dead end

Me

Now some will say that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. That is fine but webcomics are broke. The main problem is reading a serial. You have a website that insists on showing you the latest episode even if you are five episodes behind. That means going back till you find the place you left off. A few webcomics let you save yours spot but not many. I am guessing this is a throwback to when the “tin foil hats” were wary of having cookies and javascript enabled on their computer. Those two technologies ARE the internet these days.

Which brings us to the second problem. There is no such thing as a standard webcomic site. Most are hand coded, some are based on wordpress and some are done through “publishers”. Where is the menu, where are the navigation buttons, can I hide ALL those comments? Some are one story, some are lots of “chapters” or “books”. When I relaunched “The Nurbs” a few years back I looked at wordpress and couldn’t even get the webcomic friendly theses to install. In the end I wrote my own. Again.

Then there are the strips themselves. Computer screens are landscape and phones are portrait. Most webcomics seem stuck in a past where it is either comic book dimensions or newspaper (3 frames) funnies dimensions. Not sure what Scott would make of that. Of course, there is no money in the webcomic as such. It is all about the kickstarter for the printed collection or getting syndicated in old media. The format is designed to suit the authors dreams.

So I am guessing the average fan has a folder in the browser bookmarks full of comics and they update the bookmarks as they read each episode. Then somehow they have to sync that with their RSS feed which tells them when new episodes are out. It is messy. It is why I wrote webcomiX.

It started off as a personal coding project which I released into the wild as I thought others may enjoy it. They did. You can browse the Library of webcomics and add the ones you like to your Favourites screen. This lets you read the comic with big clear navigation buttons, while keeping your place in serials AND notifying you when new episodes are out. What’s not to like.

I have tried to do right by the comics. I will remove it if you ask and I contacted as many of the creators as I could to tell them about the app. It shows the whole page for the comic so that should count to their advertising turnover. You see THEIR ads and THEIR shops and THEIR Patreon links. I have one ad in the app on the Favoutrites page which doesn’t make any money. Fifteen years of apps and blogs and I still have not reached Googles minimum payent requirements. At least when apple did ads I could just about break even.

Categories
Uncategorized

All About The App

By the look of it, Comic Chameleon, the only other web comic app out there has called it a day. There has only really been them and WebcomiX and now they are gone.

From what I gather, they took a fairly different approach to comics than we did. They scraped the comics from the artists websites and in return promised a % of revenue. I don’t know how many active users they had but to pay themselves and 100+ comic creators must have been tricky.

One thing that we can learn from them is that if you are in the app market space, then it is ALL about the app. You can have brilliant ideas and the best of intentions but if the app isn’t front and centre then you are lost.

To begin with they started off as an iPhone only app. Not only that but they picked the wrong technology to make their app. There is no excuse for not supporting tablets these days. However when you installed it on an iPad you just got the system 2x blow up of the iPhone version. I am guessing they used one of those iOS/HTML/CSS hybrid systems that were popular in the early 10s. I am also guessing they didn’t have an in house programmer as they only did ten updates in seven years.

Then five years ago they did a Kickstarter to raise money for the Android app. Whatever tech they were using obviously wasn’t cross platform. They now had two apps to maintain and add features to. Even five years ago it would have been possibly to write an app that was both modern and cross platform, rather than a pure android one. they should have bitten the bullet.

Finally their app may have been a bit too high maintenance. Like comixology, it did the thing where you could read a comic one panel at a time. I am guessing someone spent a lot of time counting panels and adding it to the database. This also made the app a bit confusing as different things happened depending on where you swiped or tapped.

I will admit WebcomiX has got a bit lax at times. However there is a new version of iOS and Android every year that usually breaks something. There are new screen sizes and UI paradigms (?) to consider. There are even new things that your development tools add that can be used. The upcoming 3.1 release of WebcomiX builds on a lot of features added to Xamarin.Forms 4. One, it is a new version and you have to move to it at some point. Two, the deep linking means you could launch comics from notifications and the Home search bar. No one asked for it but they are getting it.

Still, it is a shame to see another app bite the dust after all these years. While we did the same thing, I don’t think we were ever competitors.

Categories
Uncategorized

WiFi Android Debugging

I have a Galaxy S9. It works but the USB-C connector is a bit loose. I have had it replaced once and do most of my charging via a mat. However I still need the connector for deploying and debugging apps.

Well, it turns out you can deploy and debug via wifi. It is dead slow but it works. I got most of the details form here and here. Once you have your batch file correct, you run it and your phone magically appears as a launch option in Visual Studio.

First get the IP address of your phone from

Setting->Connections->Wifi->Current Network->Settings

and your device name from the Stack Overflow link. In my case I had emulators running as well as my phone so it is easier just to hardcode the command to work on your phone. Put the following into a batch file and change 227bef7922047ece to your device name and 192.168.0.30 to your phones IP address.

@echo off
echo starting
::ENTER YOUR CODE BELOW::
echo Android bits
cd C:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools
adb -s 227bef7922047ece tcpip 5555
adb -s 227bef7922047ece connect 192.168.0.30:5555
::END OF YOUR CODE::
echo Finished
pause

Then connect your phone via USB, run the batch file, unplug the USB and check Visual Studio. As I said earlier, it is dead slow but you can do most of your debugging in the emoulator and just deploy the odd build this way.

More detail here.

Categories
Uncategorized

Hello world!

Another year, another web site. As I am, doing different stuff these days, I though it might be a good excuse to do a proper site. So, a bog standard wordpress site written using the 2020 theme and the Blocks editor. Not going to do that again in a hurry.

The layout looks ok, it is responsive and I didn’t have to touch any PHP or .ini files. I almost used a theme I had brought called Ark but the install didn’t seem to work and I couldn’t be bothered to debug it.

Blocks is just about usable. The fact you can’t actually see where the blocks are makes editing a bit tricky. A simple outline in the editor would have made it easier to see what was what.

I am also taking this opportunity to sort my photos out. I am uploading the pics of my art to the site and putting them in a gallery. The best of my general photos are being uploaded to 500px where, you never know, someone may pay to use them.