App Hero

It’s been a whirlwind fortnight, but I released the 10 apps needed to win a Windows 8 tablet. And those apps are:

Hexane

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Shield Yield

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Wrongcoming Traffic

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Dart Buddy

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Ski Don’t

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Some background to these games:

App Hero is a competition by Microsoft Ireland where you can win prizes for making apps or games for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. This was the second time I began making apps as part of the competition as it took place a year ago. The difference was that back then I only knew XNA in terms of game development and that would have been too much of a hassle to use to make store apps, so my only practical option was XAML and C# apps made in Visual Studio. In the end, I had published  2 apps for Windows 8 (Molar Calculator and “Down For Everyone?”) and none for Windows Phone. I tried to release Down for Everyone on phone but it failed certification due to some problem (I think it was that trying to use the app with mobile data turned off made it crash). A combination of not knowing how to fix it and being too lazy to meant I just didn’t bother trying to fix it up. I gave up because a requirement back then was that each app had to get over 100 downloads to be eligible which was a struggle for a simple app like mine as I found out.

But this time was different, because I now had a good grasp of Unity and had plenty of ideas to make into games.

Announced on November 24th, I dived right in to development the very same day. When I began the competition I had 2 games already made (Shield Yield and Ski Don’t), but neither was properly touch-ready. Shield yield was OK-ish on phones as long as you tapped rather than dragged the screen, because the calculation to rotate the shield was expensive on phones

Shield Yield was the first game I began reworking. Improvements over the old versions you can find on my itch.io and gamejolt.com pages are a new UI system that doesn’t mess up like the old one did (like the buttons on the game over screen going off the screen) done thanks to the release of Unity 4.6 coinciding nicely with the competition, customizeable options and an entirely new optional control scheme, much like Super Hexagon’s, the game that inspired me to make this one (pressing the left of the screen makes the shield turn anticlockwise and vice versa)

Next, I started working on Hexane but stopped development as I was having trouble with Raycasting which is used to collect the pickups. In classic “Me” style I got distracted and started working on a something else, which was Dart Buddy.

As the tweet reads, I made Dart buddy as a warmup for myself to get used to Unity 4.6’s UI system by forcing myself to make an entire app solely using it. Another reason I used Unity was that I had the Idea for Dart buddy years ago but couldn’t implement it the way I did by using Visual studio, as it doesn’t allow you to rotate Buttons (as far as I know anyways), so it would end up being much less intuitive and fast than a darts calculator needs to be. Although I’m happy with the way it turned out in the end, it’s far from perfect, as if you use it on a device with an aspect ratio other than 16:9 or 5:3 the buttons aren’t in the right places over the dartboard.

*Also, fun fact: the dartboard is actually a 3D model (solely because I thought it would be faster to make in 3D than to draw all the lines at the correct angles in 2D)

With dart buddy done, rather than return to Hexane, I decided to bring up an old project I worked on from my Chilled Banana days that we never got around to finishing I had a small amount of work to do to get it playable. The old UI had to go and be redone with 4.6, the music badly needed replacing as it was just a drum beat, the game needed a main menu and more control options.

The music was done in the space of an hour, the menu in 10 minutes and the new control schemes took about 1 and a half hours to do (Now there’s tilt, touch and keyboard control schemes depending on the device it’s run on)

I returned to Hexane and found out how to do the raycasting within half an hour. The next big problem I had was that the pickups, which were originally just square planes, weren’t rotating to face the camera then they were moved, so the would go invisible in most cases as they only have 1 visible side. I tried a few different things, like adjusting the code and trying to use cubes instead, but nothing seemed to work so I put in spheres instead.

There are still a  few more problems/changes I want to make. The sphere respawning is meant to place them in the center of each hexagon, but a lot of the times they respawn they’re way off. I’ll give them a much bigger collider as the one they have now is very hard to hit on phones. The part where the music switches from the intro to the looping part is jagged, as the looping part is much louder for some reason after I replaced it due to an incorrect note. But these updates will all come in time, as I still have apps to make until the 21st of December when the competition closes.

Finally, Ski Don’t was a game I thought would be impossible to port to touch as I had no idea how to change the controls, until in a drunken haze I came up with the idea to have buttons above each limb. It only took 4 hours to add new controls and re-do the UI. In the future I’ll try and add multitouch support as I found out it only lets you hold one button at a time the way the UI is implemented.

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