TOMG's Blog


Transcript Utility Released!
April 28, 2010, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Programming | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

So basically, I’m releasing my real piece of software – a simple, free Transcripty Utility, with no install required. You can get it at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5446142/Transcript%20Utility.rar

Feel free to leave feedback in the comments! A Readme is included in the download as well, so don’t worry about how to use it 😀



Win a Google Wave Invite!

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m giving away 6 of my Google Wave invites in a competition, that you can take part in at the end of this post! But first, I’m gonna give you a small review of it, to see if you like the sounds of it, and if you do, go for it!

The Review

Google Wave, for those who don’t know, or just havn’t been on the internet for a while, is a new Google product that is currently in development. They call it a “personal communication and collaboration tool”. I call it a mix between e-mail, instant messenger, and a wiki.

An example of the interface that is in use. You can see all the usual suspects, the contacts, navigation, etc. plus the "wave" itself on the right.

The basic principle is that you send “waves” to each other. These are messages that can consist of text, images, videos, links, gadgets, all sorts. You then stick these out on the internet, and choose who can see them. So far, so email-y. However, the bonus comes as part of the “real-time” technology that Google is employing. What this means is that if you’re replying to a wave that someone sends you, they can immediately see what you’re typing back, in real time, character by character. This immediately makes the technology interesting, especially when you consider that you can have many different people all as “participants” of this single Wave, who can all see its updates in real time.

The second big novelty is that you can then all be editing this single wave at the same time. For anyone who doesn’t quite understand how crazy this is, imagine 10 people, all editing a single Word document, at the same time, and they can all see that changes that each other is making, all in real time. Yeah, like I said, crazy.

This alone would make it a prodduct worth checking out. The thing that Google hopes will give it an edge however, and become more than just fancy, real time E-mail v.2, are the extensions and gadgets. These are things like a REALLY intelligent spell checker, and character by character translation bot, plus a multititude more. So, with all this in mind, lets head into the review.

Ok, for those who cant be bothered to read a long-ish review, I’m gonna some this up real quick for you, in two words;

  1. Buggy
  2. Awesome

And in that order I’m afraid.

It is everything that we wanted it to be. However, it just doesn’t all work yet…

I’ve been using it for about half an hour, and in that time, I’ve had to refresh twice. Sure, thats not at all bad for a product of this scale, thats still in pre-beta, but just don’t expect it to be overtaking all your email clients and facebook pages quite yet. I’ve also tried it out on the small-ish screen on my EEE PC, and I’m afraid to say, I couldn’t even see half of the buttons, never mind click them and have it crash on me.

However, while it is working, its truly a joy to use. Creating messages is simple enough, and while its not perfectly real time, theres a 2 second delay at most. A conversation I had earlier involved a friend of mine using the Map gadget, to show me the location of his student halls and how close they we’re to his university. This was all done in real time as well, and I could see everything as he was flying around in Google Maps.

You can then reply to just specific parts of a persons post, edit each others posts, work on the same post together, watch a “playback” of a post, which is like watching a time-line of people who’ve made changes to it, add gadgets for polls, embed video to each others posts, individually post lots of photos, and then save them all as a single folder on your desktop…

Yes, it really does seem like the wonder communication tool. Now just to make sure it actually works, and then convince everyone to start using it, and we’ll be well on our way.

The Competition

Ok, so you read at the top correctly, I have 6 invites to give away to you, lucky readers. All you have to do is complete a small task, and you may well be in with a chance to win an invite yourselves. This is what you gotta do;

Design me a new Google Product

Its that simple. Google has tons of failed products, as would any company run by engineers. What I want you to do is design me a succesful one. An awesome one. One for geeks, gamers, and n00bs alike. I’m talking pictures, step-by-steps of what it does, the reason its awesome, why I would sell my sould to use it. Entries can be of any sort, from a single image made in paint, to a 15 page document detailing the specifics.

But a word of advice. I’m an 18 year old male geek. I like pictures, things blowing up, women in minimal clothing, orcs, the usual. Play to those strengths!

Send all entries, whether they be images or documents, to tom.c.gray@gmail.com. Closing date is 2 weeks from now. That is 9th May!!

I’m counting on you, Internet. Don’t let me down!



WHY DOES BILL DIE?!?!?!
April 22, 2010, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Misc | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I think this post from /v/ sums it up pretty well;

>in a zombie apocalypse, there’s a team of College student, a Biker, an office worker and A VIETNAM VET try to survive
>the viewnam vet of two tours dies first
>college student, office worker, biker survive

Seriously though, BILL?!?! I’m sorry guys, I know how much you wana have sex with Zoey in a zombie apocolypse in order to repopulate Earth, but I’d rather let her die and have Bill take me from behind, than have to have Bill die.

Seriously.




XNA – Tile Grid FAQ’s – 1: Why is my Tile Map at a 90 degree angle?

In regards to the tile, grid-based game I’m working on, Dungeon Runner , I get asked a lot of questions. However, these tend to be the same questions, asked by different people. As a response to this, I’m going to start posting some answers! So here’s question, and answer, 1!

Question 1: “My grid gets displayed all wrong!” Yes, I get asked questions as unspecific as this. What you’re trying to ask is “Why is my grid being displayed at a weird 90 degree angle?!”

Answer 1: It’s to do with how C# as a language index’s grids. Basically, the X and Y become reversed. This means that Dimension (0) is Y, and Dimension (1) is X, not the other way round. So the only change you need to make to your code is to reverse these two, as I’ve done below;

for (int x = 0; x < tileMapVariable.GetLength(1); x++)
{
     for(int y = 0; y < tileMapVariable.GetLength(0); y++)
     {
          //do something to tileMapVariable[x,y]
     }
}

As you can see, X references GetLength(1), and Y the opposite.

N.B I’m not completely sure GetLength is actually a function, but you get what I mean.



MAKE BACKUPS

So I’m sat in the cafe in my uni, typing this out on my laptop, after hearing some horrible news.

My friend just lost 8-12 hours of work, due to a failed flash drive.

This is the kind of thing that is sole destorying to a coder. He had worked on his ASP.Net site, as I have mentioned we’re all working on in previous posts, straight from his flash drive, and this morning it died.

Now this is a guy who knows his stuff. He’s a good coder, he likes his open-source software, and generally speaking, hes got his head on right. And because of this failed flash drive, hes now feverishly coding away in the library, 30 mins before the deadline, aiming for 40%. Last night, he worked on it until 2AM, and would have scored an easy 90%.

But thats the world kids.Some things break. Some things crash. Others stop working for no reason, and the important bit to remember is that you will get no warning.

So make back-ups.

I myself back my work up once a week on to my flash drive, and an external hard drive, as I know, in this situation, I wouldn’t be able to scrape back the 40%.

Would you?



Indie Game Review of the Week – Week 1 – Attack of the 50ft Robot!

Let us begin our very first game review, Attack of the 50ft Robot! (The exclamation mark is part of the title. Thats an extra 5% right there)

Just basically imagine this poster, as a game

Ok, before I get into this, I think its only fair that I point out the bad bits now. I know that seems odd, but trust me, this game is so incredible, I want to be able to finish on a good note. Ok, so;

  • The physics can get a bit laggy at times. However, this may be due to the system been based on Physx, which is designed to run on Nvidia cards, and as you can tell from my earlier post, I’m now running, ATI, so I don’t know.
  • Its crashes fairly often.

Thats it basically. This is possibly the best 5 mintue game I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a LOT of games.

The Development Team

Ahh, Digipen Games, my old friends, how I’ve missed you. Its been so long since Narbacular Drop, and I feel sad that its taken so long for me to find you again. Oh, but now that you’re here. I feel safe knowing that whilever is spewing out KillSplode 4 and Modern War Death Gear 8, there will always be you.

Digipen Games are a small game development studio made up of students, based in Washington. You can read about them here, but basically these guys know what there doing. In terms of indie developers, there like grandpas, who lived through multiple wars, and have all the tricks of the trade to show for it.

The Game

I’m gonna be honest, presentation is where this game excels.

It’s presented as a grainy, 50’s style horror movie, you know like the old War of the Worlds, and other old sci-fi films? The main menu consists of “Play Feature Film” or “Loop Endless Reel”, and such, never breaking immersion. In game, it gets even better. The graphics are constantly distorted with grain, as if you’re watching a real old film, and the music is classical all the way. The game is LITERALLY like you’re watching a 50’s sci-fi film, except you’re controlling the huge robot.

The use of colour is also excellent. Everything is displays in monotone (again, with the 50’s immersion), except for the colour red. This provides an incredible look, as all the lasers in the game are red. Yeah, that’s right, I said lasers.

DIE TINY HUMANS!

PATHETIC MORTALS!!!

You have to understand, this is a game where you shoot lasers from your eyes. This is a game, where you take off your own head, hold it in your hands, and still shoot lasers from the eyes. Thats the level of insanity what we’re talking about here.

Right click shoots your hands as rockets, and left click grabs. Q and E shoot lasers. Thats it basically. The right-click is hilarious, when your surrounded by helicopters, and the last resort is to start firing your own hands at them. The grab is even better. It basically grabs whatever is close to you, tanks, chunks of building, or, if you can’t quite get anything in reach, you take off your own head.

Thats normal, right?

I have to say, using your own head as a bowling bowl to destroy buildings has to be my favourite part.  There a certain satisfaction when you see it rolling towards some tanks, as you’re now running around headless, still using both your hands as rockets, and then seeing them go flying, only to have your body generate another one. Glorious.

The game also has some form of narrative as well, which is unusual for games like these, which are basically tech demo’s. By the end of the level, you realise that you are actually trapped in a 50’s sci-fi horror movie, as one of the buildings cracks open, and the roof turns into a UFO.

Also, I don’t wana spoil the ending, but this isn’t even the final battle.

HOLY SHIT!!!
Jesus ,what the hell is that?! I’m sure helicopter don’t have lasers…

So, final words. No, this game isn’t the most polished out there, and no, it’s not the least buggy (I’ve loaded it about 10 times, and I’d say 6 of those were crashes) but it

just doesn’t matter. This is what indie gaming is about – having an idea, then having the guts and hard work to make that idea real, regardless of how rough it is around the

edges.

Concluding Verdict: 9/10

Final Note: It would have been a 10, but it just crashed once to often for an indie game. Make it a tad more stable, and you have yourself a winner.



Weekly Indie Game Review – Coming Soon!

So, the general purpose of this post is to aleart you all to something. Very soon (tomorrow morning or evening) I will begin writing reviews for indie games/freeware!

The Independent Games Festival, where indie game developers compete to win cash prizes!

Now, the reason I’m writing them for inde games/freeware is several reasons. However, the chief of these are;

  • I believe indie games can be, and are, a lot more fun than more commercialised games, for several reasons.
  • There are thounds of review blogs on the internet, and most of them review all the latest big releases in an attempt to get more hits. Not her, baby. We’re about discovering undiscovered gems.

So with that in mind, I have compiled a small list of rules for a game to qualify for review. These are;

  • The game must be self published and downloadable on the internet.
  • It must be free, or have been released in the past as an almost completed version, for free.
  • It must be smaller than 1Gb in size.

By sticking to this list of rules, I believe I can focus on more undiscovered talent that I know is out there, and attempt to bring it into my, somewhat small, lime light!

Also, on this note, do you have a favourite indie game that no one knows about? Working a little project and want me to review it’s beta version? Drop me contant details in the comments, and I’ll review anything that I can get for free, that follows the rules 😀

On that note, look out for tommorow for your first review!