Musings on the Raspberry Pi

I recently acquired a Raspberry Pi, the £25 computer which is the brainwave of various UK industry luminaries, most famously including David Braben, the author of 8-bit classic 3d-space-shooting trade game Elite. I have a few thoughts about how it’s delivered, what it costs, who it might be aimed at, and what might be done to improve things for level 2.

The Raspberry Pi arrives as a naked circuit board about the size of a box of what we in the UK call fags. This always amuses Americans, but Americans are of course easily amused, albeit for an extremely short duration. The circuit board has as many connectors on it as you could reasonably hope for in a computer – two USB ports, stereo jack, Ethernet port, micro-USB power input, HDMI out, and composite video out. There’s even something called a GPIO which is a bunch of pins which you can connect “things” to that do “stuff”, but that’s for very clever propeller head types who understand electrickery, and not programmers like me.

Of the USB, Ethernet and stereo jack, we shall have nothing much to say. Or indeed the GPIO thing. They are as they are and I dare say no improvements could be made on them. The other outputs represent some rather odd thinking.

HDMI Output

HDMI is the future! HDMI is awesome! VGA is dying! … but unfortunately, HDMI is only available on the very latest monitors and newer TVs. So we’ve got a £25 computer, and the theory is that you’re supposed to pick up and use some existing mouse, keyboard and monitor that you’ve got, probably gathering dust in the spare room, to save you a pile of cash. Except, of course, your monitor only has the usual D-shaped SVGA input. Everyone I know has a spare SVGA monitor lying around. Not a single one has a spare HDMI capable monitor. A few people quite likely have monitors with DVI-D input, but I have a feeling that like mine it is already in use as the main PC monitor. The solution in my case was to buy an HDMI cable and a brand new HDMI-capable monitor. £115 vanishes.

Then there’s this thing about HDMI not exactly being reliable, like SVGA is. In my case, all I got was a black screen on startup. It could have been any number of things but fortunately I’ve got quite a diagnostic mind and I’m not 12 years old, like many of the prospective owners of the Pi are purportedly meant to be. Suffice it to say it took me an entire evening of Googling around to discover that you had to create a text file with HDMI configuration parameters in it to get the monitor to actually display anything. This is fun… for various values of “fun” which unfortunately lie somewhat outside my comfortable parameters. You see, I spend all day, every day, trying to figure out why the fuck stuff doesn’t work properly. I was rather looking forward to plugging in the Pi and tinkering with it straight away, but I didn’t even get that far. I had to wank about fiddling with it just to get a fucking picture. Yes, that made me cross.

Composite Output

A nice touch but pointless. Almost all composite-input devices likely to be found around the home are now rightfully in landfill and those that aren’t are generally massive and not the sort of thing you generally want cluttering up a spare corner of a small room. Not only that but they tend to be Jurassic power-guzzling dinosaurs and prone to going on the blink. The other day I spent a happy afternoon coding in CRT distortion effects in the new version of Ultratron. So anyway: composite output – might as well have saved the money on providing this output, no-one in their right mind needs or wants it who is going to own this device. Yeah, even you. You’ve got a spare old SVGA monitor in the garage too haven’t you? Throw that old black-and-white portable telly in the skip.

Micro-USB Power Input

Er… why? I’ve got about 20 different adapters lying around my house, all with sturdy jacks, providing voltages anywhere between 3v and 12v. I literally have a box full. I expect mostly everyone else does too, because over the last 30 years, nearly every widget you’ve bought came with its own. I bet amongst them all you’ve got a 5v DC input you could have already used. Well, it doesn’t matter, you can buy the flimsy microUSB input instead for another £5.

Supplied without an SD Card or software

Now, here’s probably the most controversial thing I’m going to say about the Pi. As it comes, it won’t actually switch on or do anything, even if you’ve got the spare keyboard, mouse, and shelled out £85 for a monitor and cable. You also need to get yourself a 4GB SD card to put on some firmware and an OS. Although this process is trivial, and the cost is nothing to worry about (literally, the price of a bag of peanuts), it’s completely unlike my first experiences of computing.

My first real computer was a Vic-20, back when they first came out. It cost quite a lot of money – a lot more in fact than all this Pi stuff has come to in real terms – but: I plugged it in to the telly, switched it on, and tuned the TV using the twisty analogue knob. And there it was: a BASIC interpreter, 3583 bytes of RAM free (though 2 went missing immediately somewhere). It came like this out-of-the-box. I could get coding on it within seconds. It’s this plug-and-play appeal that turned so many people off of PCs for gaming and on to games consoles in the first place and represents exactly why software engineers are so derided by mostly every other engineering principal.

 

Built to a Price, But What Price And Why?

So the Raspberry Pi commands all sorts of cool headlines like “a computer for just £25!” mostly because it sounds, well, cool. Except I’ve spent £200 on mine in total, which coincidentally is about what my Vic-20 cost me albeit in 1982 money. That’s clearly beyond typical pocket money for today’s cash strapped youth who of course absolutely, completely need mobile credit and, er, whatever it is that teenagers spend money on. Drugs I expect, as they can’t easily get booze any more.

About £165 of that cost was the monitor, keyboard and mouse; the keyboard and mouse were really just me being slightly extravagant (I have an awesome tiny Cherry ultra-compact keyboard), but the monitor… well, that was annoying, really, as I could have used one of several other devices kicking about the house if the Pi ditched its HDMI and composite outputs in favour of something more befitting its status as a cheap toy that is meant to be attached to stuff you have lying around gathering dust.

So with the Pi only about 12% of the total cost of the whole setup, why exactly is it designed like this? Why is it built to meet a £25 price point when a few bob here and there would barely change the overall cost but vastly improve the whole experience? Who buying one of these things actually gives a fuck that it’s £25 and not, say, £40? I really have no idea.

It would appear that there have been engineers involved in the market research. Oh dear.

No-one buying computers cares that it costs £25 or £35. Especially when you have to buy a bunch of other things to make it work anyway, and then waste an evening trying to get it to boot. There are of course a few electronic engineering types having gentlemen’s accidents over the GPIO port and that’s great, but I seem to recall that the Pi was all about getting a generation of kids into computing as we used to know it, back when we had Spectrums, 64s and Amstrads. The problem is that price was only a small factor in the choice of whether we owned one of those home computers back in the day, yet it seems to have been absolutely the driving factor in designing the Pi.

What I’d Do To Make Me Happy

Were I to think about the successor to the Pi, apart from the usual guff about making it a bit faster and giving it more RAM through the inevitable march of progress (nabbing the chip out of a Galaxy S II would just be incredible), I’d ditch HDMI and composite out in favour of a technically obsolete SVGA connector. I suspect the cost would be as near as identical as to make virtually no difference to the prospective buyer’s financial situation – as we’ve already established, the cost of a Pi is only actually a fraction of the total cost of actually using a Pi. Not only would this mean you can use that old Dell monitor, it’d also work, unlike the HDMI port, which doesn’t.

Secondly, I’d supply the Pi with a 4GB SD card plugged in to it already, with an OS on it, that boots. In fact I’d probably consider wedging the thing inside a keyboard casing with a trackpad and then you’ve literally got something just like one of those home computers of old, the spirit of which the Pi is attempting to capture. If you sold the bundle of things ready assembled for under £100 you’ve got a no-brainer for any prospective parent thinking about getting one for his or her geeky kids.

Lastly I’d switch from using microUSB power input to a standard 5v DC power input. And then I’d supply the device with one anyway, in the box.

The choice of Linux as an OS is unfortunate but a bit of a necessity given there’s bugger all alternatives yet. Linux is incredibly complicated. Just look at the BASIC interpreter command prompt startup of a Vic-20 compared to the Pi. Eek. This isn’t really going to help a new generation of geeks get in to programming; it’s likely to make them think, this is just too much effort for too little gain. Well done for creating the sort of barrier to entry that filters out all but the most heavily bespectacled and introverted propellerheads but is that really what we need? I believe that the barrier should be as low as absolutely possible in order to hook people into fiddling before people need to get into the nuts and bolts. Look at Mac OS. It’s got Unix underneath but even an idiot can use it after switching it on. I think the Pi is going to need something like that.

Anyway, more ramblings about the Pi later, as I get to grips with the horrors of Linux and C programming (Python! You must be joking). Eventually I’m hoping to get some Java code running on it.

Afterword

You might think I’m being a little negative about the Pi so far. Actually I’m having a reasonable amount of fun tinkering with it; my fears are really more meta-fears; I suspect that the Pi will turn off more people from software engineering than it will turn on, supplied as is. It is the very raw roots of modern computing. Unfortunately those roots are ugly, messy, nasty, clunky things; and one of the chief reasons I don’t use Linux as my main OS, and also one of the main reasons I use Java as my weapon of choice.

Talking of Java, seeing a bit more of an effort to support Java on the device wouldn’t go amiss. After all, it’s very, very likely that Java is what they’re going to be actually exposed to in higher education. Not Python.

 

Mac OS X Developer Required for “Charity” Work

Your API Needs YouThe LWJGL project, which provides the low-level graphics, sound and input bindings required for Java to make great games such as Revenge of the Titans, Titan Attacks, Spiral Knights, Tribal Trouble, Starfarer, Blocks That Matter, and yes, the ubiquitous Minecraft, needs your help. Well, that is, if you’re a reliable, seasoned Mac OS X developer with a fairly deep understanding of the Obj-C display APIs. Continue reading

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Having spent the last few days dealing with the aftermath of turning 39, I’ve finally gotten the database rinsed and cleaned and full of genuine registrations again from the Great Birthday Giveaway… and with some cunning databasery I’ve managed to reinstate some previously disabled games. What does this mean for you?

In short: if you ordered more than one game, I have reactivated the first one you ordered.

So if you were one of the people that fired up Steam the other day and discovered your game(s) have vanished, or if you tried to obtain a Steam key and were told that your email has been disabled, or if you tried to register your Puppygames registration but were told the same, you may now again register your game – just the first one you ordered – and get a Steam key for it (if it was Revenge of the Titans or Titan Attacks – Droid Assault and Ultratron don’t have Steam keys yet, but they will have, and you will be able to get them in the same way).

All in all I’ve managed to give away a further 2,353 free games to people who either didn’t read the small print quite right or for whatever reason were unaware of the one game limit. This makes me feel all magnanimous and warm inside, and is back in the spirit of things, bringing the total grand giveaway to 13,701 games.

Just to allay a few untrue rumours circulating – no-one is going to be banned by Valve for blagging an extra key. There are a few script hackers who might be in trouble though, and it was these guys filling up the registrations database with shite that have caused everyone all the grief, you included.

So in short: run your game, pop your email address in and wait for it to register, then go to http://www.puppygames.net/steam to get a Steam key if it’s Revenge of the Titans or Titan Attacks.

So, What Happened On My Birthday?

As a little treat for the internets, on my birthday the other day I decided that we would give away our games for free, and see what the power of a single tweet could accomplish.


Well, of course, our server was flattened within the hour, as it turns out our keygen can only generate about 15 keys a minute, and we went on to give away 22,500 keys.  The only reason we only gave away 22,500 keys was because BMTMicro, our payment provider, closed our shop page after 12 hours because we couldn’t cope with the huge backlog coming in.

To make matters more amusing, we only had about 6,000 Steam keys to hand, and these ran out sharpish as well. It also turns out the Steam key retriever contained a schoolboy thread race error in it causing a couple of hundred people to receive duplicate Steam keys. And the cherry on the cake was that unbeknownst to us, a few days before the promotion, our server silently stopped sending email to customers after it was “migrated” by Rackspace. I’ve no idea how its configuration could have changed in that time, but it did. So we had this perfect storm going on:

  1. Site flattened
  2. Shop page shut down
  3. Ran out of Steam keys
  4. Email sender kaput

The end result is that my single tweet generated 3,000 support emails, none of which we will be answering :) No, instead, we are going to send an email to each and every one pointing to a FAQ page which explains what went wrong and what you can do about it, and if you’ve got some problem that’s not answered in the FAQ, we advise emailing us again.

Abuse!

It didn’t take long for some people, in Eastern Europe and Australia, to latch on to our generosity, and quickly create scripts to generate hundreds of Steam keys for themselves, which presumably they have been trading. Unfortunately I know about this. Unfortunate for them, that is, as every single one of these keys will shortly be invalidated by Valve, who will also at their discretion be completely banning accounts who took advantage of the abuse. This is called “karma”.

Slightly Less Abuse!

I’m not sure just how clear that tweet was about the offer but to me it looks very much like “1 item max” means that I only wanted to give away one game each on my birthday. I’m terribly sorry to all 3,137 people who decided to take all of our games during the offer, because I’ve had to disable them all, and again, Valve will be taking your keys off of you, and no, I’m not giving them back because there are thousands of you and you had your chance and blew it.

What We Are Left With

So out of that 22,500 ”sales”, we’ve actually ended up with just 11,200 legitimate people who took us up on the offer – happy birthday me! And a thousand thank yous to all those who took the offer in the spirit in which it was intended – you really are our fans and you make it all worthwhile for us. Keep an eye out for the completely updated, revamped and changed Ultratron 3.0 coming in the next couple of months, and of course, Droid Assault will be making an appearance on Steam as well soon.

Some Of Your Problems Answered

Where do I get the Steam key from for my game?

http://www.puppygames.net/steam

I got a duplicate key! Can you fix this?

Just try again, it’s fixed now.

I never received the email you said you sent me!

Try again, it’s fixed now. And check your SPAM folder!

It says you’ve run out of Steam keys!

We’ve got some more now, just try again.

My game has reverted back to a demo version!

That’s too bad – I did only want to give one game away each and I haven’t time to deal with everyone who somehow “misunderstood”

Titan Attacks! – get your Steam keys here

Ever wondered exactly what the Titans wanted revenge for? Not long ago, our esteemed friends from Titan attacked our peaceful planet, a battle which played out in our seminal shooter Titan Attacks – winner of Gametunnel.com’s Action Game of the Year!

Well obviously you must have soundly thrashed them. Why not relive history and show us how it was done – and in case you missed the news – now you can do it in recently updated crispy HD graphics!

Getting to the point :) … Titan Attacks is now available on Steam for both Windows and Mac OS with over 40 new Steam achievements and online hiscore table!

… and to celebrate the launch, for one week only, it’s on special offer!

Alternatively, if you’d like to support us by buying direct, you can then activate a FREE Steam version, which means more pies and ale for us, and if you’ve already bought Titan Attacks no worries – we’ll give you a Steam key too.

New Droid Assault trailer, introducing Allicorn

A new trailer for the new year, with a spanking new tune by Allicorn, who is also our new programmery person!

Previously Allicorn did half of the droid sound effects and music for Droid Assault – his first task as full-time new programmery person is to make the Sandbox Mode add-on content for Revenge of the Titans, and hopefully he’ll have that ready for Easter or thereabouts. Over to Cas…

Allicorn and I have played pen-and-paper RPGs together once a week for the last five years. He is frighteningly clever but humble and helpful. When he’s not doing RPG gaming with me and our mutual friends, or coding for Puppygames, he’s also one of the administrators of Yog-Sothoth. I’d like to think there was some overlap in our clientele already.

Yeti Attack!

Wolcum Yole, Puppyfriends! As a special treat to all the boys and girls who have been good all year we have spent the last month working on completely free DLC for Revenge of the Titans!

All you need to do is make sure you install the latest v1.80.14 release (download the demo from our site here if you’re a Puppygames customer, or go to your Humble Indie Bundle download page, or just fire up Steam and it’ll update automatically). You’ll find that between 19th December and 8th January there’s a new game mode available – Yeti Attack! You get all the toys in the game, albeit in limited numbers, and you can even use disruptor towers safely! The objective is to survive for exactly 30 minutes of a constant stream of Hoff Yetis arriving from the north. The maps generated are completely random so there should even be some good replay value in there as well. Afterwards you will be treated to some amusing statistics.

Incoming Sprouts Detected

 

Wolcum yole! Christmas lurks just around the corner, ready to pounce on unsuspecting credit cards and weakened bank accounts. To alleviate the suffering just a teeny, tiny, weeny bit, here is a new version of Revenge of the Titans, v1.80.14, which in a few days’ time you will discover has a special Christmas treat in it.

Here are the download links (except for you Humble Bundle types, you need to go back to your Humble Bundle download links and get them there. And, er, wait a day or two for the caches to update first):

What’s New and Noteworthy?

The first thing half of you will notice is that the mouse handling is completely different. I realise that this is a fairly bold and risky thing to do to a fairly long-established control mechanism in a product that’s already very mature, but… it never really worked properly before, you see. It didn’t use the desktop mouse settings, it didn’t work with tablets, it didn’t work with some mouse drivers, it was quite frequently completely erratic in movement, and it also grabbed the mouse when you clicked on the window which is kinda rude and doesn’t behave nicely in windowed mode when it comes to alt-tabbing.

So now the mouse is no longer captured by the window, and you use either the left or right buttons to scroll the screen by click-and-drag. The right mouse button has a tiny sensitivity threshold on it, which means it should still respond sensibly to its original functions (picking up buildings to build, cancelling operations), whereas the left mouse button will immediately drag. The left mouse button of course won’t drag if what you’re clicking on would otherwise have some other effect – for example, attempting to drag whilst in range of a capacitor isn’t going to work – you need to use the right mouse button.

The reason for allowing the right mouse button in drags as well is so that you can go into build mode and still scroll the screen about with the mouse like you used to. Or smartbomb mode, etc. It takes a little bit of getting used to – especially after 4 years of the old way of just waving the mouse about – but after a few games it’s just second nature again. Of course you can still use the cursor keys or WASD to scroll anyway if that’s what butters your bread.

The next thing I’ve changed is the display context handling. Er, what’s that, you ask? Well, put it this way: if you had driver problems before, they might have gone away now and the game is more likely to run. There were a lot of issues with the nice resizable window we introduced in v1.80.13, and hopefully they’ve all gone away now, although sadly with the loss of the minimise and maximise buttons.

The powerup spawn effects (and building attack effects, etc) now use chunky fat lines to draw, and because they’re now being drawn the same way as everything else in the game, they should be proper fast on all drivers. A few people had problems with the game suddenly dropping to about 2fps whenever a powerup spawned. This should now be fixed. It looks prettier, too, I think.

Finally there’s a subtle change to the way animation works, and screen transitions. You probably noticed on the screen transitions that some sprites were rendered before others, just for a single frame, so we’d have this sort of partial display which was just noticeable. This especially irritated me because I’ve seen it about 100,000 times, and it’s been bothering me for several years (yes, really). Well, I finally got around to fixing it.

Please let us know ASAP if there are any odd issues with the new version!

So Long, Desura

This part of the post is likely to attract all manner of hate and flames, but it has to be said: Desura wasn’t working for us. We spend just as much time and stress figuring out how to release software on the Desura platform as Steam, but unfortunately make literally 1/1000th of the money. So little in fact I don’t think Desura have even managed to pay us any money yet. It doesn’t make sense for us to support Desura any more, and so we’re not. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great client, their hearts are in the right place, but… we’re on Steam.

So my humble apologies to anyone with their eggs in the Desura basket. Contact us if you’ve got any issues.

Ultrabundle refresh being prepared

If this release of Revenge goes to plan, that is, generally seems to work properly, we’ll do a refresh of the Ultrabundle games using the same code, which will fix the same issues, etc. Fingers crossed.

Die Rache der Titanen!

Revenge of the Titans ab morgen im Handel erhältlich!

Yep, Revenge of the Titans available in stores starting tomorrow! says Google translate.

Am 25. November, veröffentlicht Iceberg Interactive „Revenge of the Titans – Die Rache der Titanen”. Das im Retro-Look gehaltene PC-Spiel ist eine Mischung aus Echtzeit-Strategie und Tower-Defense. Die Spieler müssen erneut die Erde retten, die ein weiteres Mal von den Titanen überrannt werden soll. Die furchterregenden Bodentruppen der Titanen bedrohen die Erde mit ihren grauenvollen Monstern. Ist die Erde diesmal dem Untergang geweiht?

Die Spieler von „Revenge of the Titans“ müssen ihre Verteidigung schnell aufbauen und immer weiter upgraden, während sie die notwendigen Ressourcen aus den nahegelegen Mienen schöpfen. Neue Technologien und Gebäude müssen erforscht werden um die Erde und das Sonnensystem zu verteidigen. All das, während die Titanen unaufhaltsam heranrücken.

Features:

50 Level auf der Erde, Mond, Mars, Saturn und dem Titan
Unzählige Technologien und Gebäude zum Erforschen
Spielmodi: Entspannter Endlos-Spielmodus und aufregender Survival-Modus mit Online-Highscore-Listen

„Revenge of the Titans – Die Rache der Titanen“ ist zum empfohlenen Verkaufspreis von 19,99 Euro im Handel erhältlich.

Weitere Informationen unter http://www.iceberg-interactive.com/

Show me the Sales!

Erstwhile indie entrepreneur, caustic media darling and Ferengi executive Cliffski has put together an awesome site of like-minded indie games developers where we flog our humble wares called Show Me The Games. The site is a dedicated not-for-profit co-operative between a few of us indie developers to bring in direct sales to benefit each other, the lifeblood of expansion in our industry.

This morning we are proud to announce a sale on Show Me The Games called… Show Me The Sales!

If you’re a customer of ours (either directly, via affiliates, through Steam or the Humble Indie Bundle), please stroll on over and check out some incredibly cheap and nifty titles from our fellow indie peers, many of which would make great Christmas gifts for friends and family (especially, hem hem, on account of their extreme cheapness for the next 14 days). Of course, you could spend Christmas day playing Monopoly instead. No? I thought not. Go now!

If you’re in any doubt about any of the titles available on Show Me The Sales don’t forget they all have demos and all have refund policies.

New trailer for Titan Attacks v2, glitchy bits fixed, Revenge 1.80.13

To accompany the recent v2.00 release of Titan Attacks is this new trailer wot I have done…

Cas has also done a few fixes – so if you had any problems with Linux freezing, have a go and see if it’s got better.

Linux Ultrabundle Fixed

I’ve just uploaded a hacky fix to make the Ultrabundle games work properly on Linux. If anyone could let me know why Frame.isActive() always returns false on Linux I’d be grateful. Grr.

Revenge of the Titans Updated to v1.80.13

Humble Bundlers – download the update from your Humble Bundle page, not Puppygames!

Revenge of the Titans also got an update which actually changes a few things, some of which will make whiners whine, but as that’s what whiners do, we shall leave them to it. Amongst the changes is that the resolution of the game has now been fixed regardless of your screen’s aspect ratio. It was supposed to be like this before but because of a bit of a logic error it never really worked as intended. Now it does. You should find the game now resizes to any size you like when running in a window (press “P” to pause and ungrab the mouse).

Balance & gameplay changes in the game are as follows:

  • The overall difficulty level of the game has been slackened off a tiny bit. You will be able to hoard a little more money before things get really tough. But hoarding money is not the way to win this game anyway. Spend it on defenses! Or as we like to call them here in Blighty, defences.
  • Battledroids and repair drones have been nerfed, and are now produced in slightly fewer numbers.
  • The repairs that repair drones do now actually cost you money. The repair cost is 10% of the basic value of the building per hitpoint restored. The base, having no cost as such, costs $750 per hitpoint.
  • It’s now running under Java 7 on Windows, and should see about a 20% boost in performance, which you won’t notice really unless your machine is marginal in the CPU area.
  • Fixed a few typos here and there
  • Fixed a bug where you the difficulty was not being attenuated when you were being kicked in by the Titans. This has been in for ages! I did think it was a little odd that people were complaining quite so much about difficulty – turns out the little tweak that was in there to allow players to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat was broken!
  • Nerfed boss hitpoints a little
  • Any of you running on Steam will be delighted to know that we have added Steam achievements and Steam cloud support!

That little lot is bound to upset loads of people but, well, you know, they needed fixing. You’re unlikely to really notice unless you were heavily into repair drones, or you were finding the game too hard – in which case, give it another spin, you’ll probably get a lot further before you hit the Easier Level button.

Ultrabundle Updated

After a bunch of false starts, bodged uploads, and some really annoying library wrangling between LWJGL versions, we have finally unleashed the updated Ultrabundle games, Droid Assault, Titan Attacks, and Ultratron. Existing customers can download nice brand new ones from the usual Puppygames locations (keep your old versions hanging around in case, eh?).

AZERTY keyboard users: sorry, but Ultratron is currently going to be pretty tricky to play as it uses WASD – we’ll upload a fix to this in an update probably next week.

What’s Changed

Titan Attacks has received a giant graphical overhaul and grown up into what we now call version 2.00. Now not only does it look timeless it also looks sharp and modern. A nice trick if you can do it :) Three cheers to Chaz for making it look so much more… nice.

Now in widescreen, sort of…

Before and after…

There have also been a few small gameplay tweaks. Firstly, it’s now basically mouse controlled, because that’s how everyone normal plays it, although you can still use the keys if you’re desperate or stuck on a laptop. The mouse however allows you to move the ship at whatever speed you like. This means the ship speed shop item has been replaced with a different upgrade – “Addon recharge” – which governs the speed at which all your addons reload and fire. You’ll probably want to be upgrading it last. Finally, the ship only starts with one bullet, which is a bit more traditional, and gives you an early thing to aim for in the upgrades.

You’ll also notice now that the window is fully resizeable to any size you so desire, and we’ve added a much-asked-for world select screen!

Droid Assault recently already underwent the big graphical overhaul in the previous 1.90 release, so now with 1.90.1, we’ve done a few refinements to it. The maximum zoom of some of the droids was causing some performance issues and sometimes looked a little crazy so it’s been capped. The laser beams and flamethrower and flames have had their effects thoroughly revised. The game has become slightly easier too, with the droid you are controlling given 50% more hitpoints than before. So, a bunch of little tweaklets which should make for a very slightly nicer experience. Still haven’t put fast droid switching back in yet though – sorry.

Ultratron, being the oldest and simplest title, has simply received the ability to resize the window and a little bit of a title screen overhaul. A few tiny weeny tweaks have been made to the powerups – the spidroid powerups will now remain onscreen indefinitely for you to pick them up. Shooting the freeze powerup pauses the enemy robots momentarily, and shooting the three-way powerup causes your shots to split into three! This can give you an incredible amount of bullets flying around on screen but of course you are fairly hampered in your movement and aiming by the need to shoot it. That’s about it for Ultratron.

Unfortunately we’ve sort of lost the ability to redefine the keys along the way which might be a bit of an arse for those of you with AZERTY keyboards or other abominations. We’ll probably have to come up with a fix for that before the forthcoming Steam release.

Droid Assault – tweaked!

And it is a proper tweaking. Firstly and without further ado, go and download it and while you’re waiting read about what we’ve changed.

Why we’ve tweaked it

Before I tell you the exact nitty gritty of what’s changed you might want to know why we went monkeying with the secret sauce with one of the greatest videogames ever made, eh? Well, it all stems from the fact that Droid Assault is going to wind up on Steam in the not-too-distant future, and your average Steam punter is perhaps a little more discerning (or shall we say, “scathingly critical”), en masse, than you delightful and forgiving Puppygames fans are.

Droid Assault suffered a few arbitrary and unnecessary limitations in various areas. Firstly it was designed around a rather crappy 320×320 display area (along with our other two minigames, Titan Attacks and Ultratron). The window was fixed, square shaped, and decidedly a bit weird. In this modern day and age it seemed a little incongruous.

Also, the game did rather suffer from being somewhat mindless. It started off reasonably sensible but by the time you got to, say, two thirds of the way through the game, it became an almost random frenzy of blaster fire; 90% of the droids were blown up, including often most of your own droids, in the first 10 seconds of the level, leading to a couple of minutes of relative tedium. Again, this probably wasn’t going to satisfy the relatively eclectic tastes of the Steam demographic, many of whom clearly prefer deeper, more involved games, as our runaway success Revenge of the Titans has shown us.

So, I wanted to make the game a little deeper and more tactical than it used to be, and the following raft of changes is chiefly aimed at getting depth and tactics into this game to replace the random destruction.

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Some Things Are Broken

All software is subject to the strange force of entropy that causes stuff that previously used to work fine to suddenly not work any more. This is an embuggerance which programmers live with on a daily basis, as it appears to occupy about 80% of our miserable time just keeping on top of it.

And so it would seem that some of our stuff has been broken by the Great Rug of Entropy deftly yanked from beneath its wobbly feet. Allow me to describe the symptoms, causes, and possible cures.

Linux

The Debian Packages Won’t Install On Ubuntu 11

Indeed they won’t, because Canonical in their infinite wisdom added some more checking into their .deb unpackager which disagrees with the sadly out-of-date Debian package maker we use. You can actually force it to accept the .deb files we provide (there’s some fancy commandline thing that works – please enlighten me in the comments and I’ll update this post with the solution). If you don’t fancy doing that then the good old .tar.gz files still work as normal.

Java 7 Breaks All Our Games On Linux

Oracle have just released the shiny new Java 7. Hurrah! It’s considerably faster than Java 6. Unfortunately it breaks all our games, and also, it has some serious crashy bugs in it at the moment so generally I’d advise not upgrading to Java 7 for a few months just yet. Unfortunately some Linux distros – notably it would seem Arch Linux – have automatically upgraded Java, and now the games don’t work. The solution is to roll back to Java 6. I advise you to use OpenJDK rather than the Oracle one, as it seems to work better.

Mac OS X

Problems with Lion

There may be some problems with Lion not working, but so far nobody’s come up with a concrete set of problems and/or solutions. We do know that Java is not installed by default in Lion, and so what should happen, on a brand new machine, is that the first time you run one of our games, it’s supposed to go and download Java. This is of course a crappy solution and it’s entirely Apple’s fault. They will be releasing a deployable solution soon which we’ll take advantage of just as soon as we can. If you have any troubles, comment below and tell me and I’ll update this post.

Windows

Surprisingly there appear to be no problems with Windows except possibly with that Razr mouse thing which appears to misbehave. And some of you still can’t figure out how to install new graphics drivers. It really is criminal that Windows still ships on OEM machines with drivers that simply won’t play 50% of the available games out there.

Other News

We’re just putting the final touches to the new version of Droid Assault which has many incremental improvements. We could easily massively expand it into a really quite big and deep sort of game but we’re unsure of the potential market for games like Droid Assault any more so we’re holding off further development on it. But right now the plan is to release it as we have it, which is basically the same but much more polished and improved in various subtle ways, and then think about what to do next. Well, what to do other than give the same treatment to Titan Attacks and Ultratron, which also near completion. All three titles will be making an appearance on Steam soonish, but as with Revenge of the Titans, you will be able to get free Steam keys for all of them if you buy them direct from Puppygames.

In Shops Now!

So we can cross another cheevo off the list: Revenge of the Titans is now available in actual physical form, in boxes lovingly drawn by Chaz, in actual shops! If that isn’t cool enough, said boxes also come with a double-sided hi-res poster inside and also the full-length music EP and also a free Steam key and also the Mac version is included as well!

How cool is that eh? I’ve got 3 of them here at home, still wrapped in their cellophane.

Many thanks to Iceberg Interactive for publishing the game phyically for us. We’re hoping that they make a bunch of money on it, because we’d like a nice simple retail partner we can turn to when we need them, and if this works out, it will be them.

Follow Up : For A Buck

A very interesting selection of responses to our previous bit of bloggage about selling games for a buck. Just to cure any wild speculation about things, I should say there’s no way we can sell games for a buck – it costs us $1.50 to process a single sale as it is*, so we’d actually be paying you money to, er, take digital goods “away”. This would lead to brain meltdown and financial apocalypse.

Even assuming we could process the fee for nothing, we don’t actually get enough visitors a day to sell enough copies even at the (very unlikely) conversion rate of 100% to make minimum wage. Obviously minimum wage might be ok if you are 21 and live with your parents but unfortunately I’ve got an entire family to look after in good old Blighty and it’s not getting any cheaper to live here!

Still, it was interesting to see the number of people who would impulse buy a game based on the strength of a video and / or a review of the game from some trusted source somewhere on teh internets. There were a few people who won’t even throw a dollar at anything – presumably not even a bag of crisps – unless it’s a dead cert, but I suspect that though vocal these people are absolutely a minority and I’ve got the figures to back it up! Revenge has been selling on Steam for 3 months now without a demo just fine. And just ask Apple how their pricing policies and refund policies have worked out for everyone. So, sorry guys, but if you won’t even throw a dollar at something to try it out for yourself, your options are becoming increasingly limited and at the end of the day you’re probably just cutting your nose off to spite your face. Well done! You saved a dollar! You can watch TV tonight all night again as a reward.

* We’ve just been informed that BMTMicro, our payment processor, are going to be able to reduce their fee from about $1.50 to 70c on games priced under $5 – so we’ve updated the price of the Ultrabundle and the games within to $4.97 to see what happens!

Paypal, Amazon Payments and Google Checkout

If you’re reading this then chances are you’re a fan and already bought something from us anyway, but BMTMicro have now added the ability to buy our games really easily using Paypal, Amazon and Google Checkout! Unfortunately right now Amazon are still insisting on getting address details but BMT I think are working on convincing them they don’t need that info for a registration.

What We’re Doing Now

So: Chaz is moving house, so he’s going to be incommunicado and otherwise busy for a month or so. While he’s doing that, I’m tarting up the Ultrabundle games, making them finally display in fully freely resizable windows (about time eh!). Droid Assault has gotten a much more thorough working over, with varying levels of zoom depending on droid scanner ranges, and tweaks to gameplay, weaponry, droids, and difficulty. I’ll be releasing the new Droid Assault update soon.

I think it’s ok to tell you that the Ultrabundle games will be available on Steam at some point in the not-too-distant-future, and like Revenge of the Titans, you will be able to get free Steam keys for them as soon as they’re released. So don’t let that get in the way of buying the Ultrabundle now ;)

After I’ve gotten the Ultrabundle games sorted for Steam, we’re going to start work on a new game. This isn’t the game we were originally planning to do next – we think that game is going to take about 2 years to get to releasable state and we’ve only got money for a year left. Instead we’re going to resurrect Treasure Tomb and attempt to do it justice with new hi-res graphics and other clever things. In particular we’re keen on making an integrated level editor that ordinary players can use, to, er, make all the levels for us with. Heheh.

Somewhere amongst all this I’m going to slowly chip away at Steam SDK stuff and get the achievements into Revenge of the Titans. And probably the Ultrabundle games as well. Busy busy busy!

Attention, Graduate iOS Programmers!

Puppy Games is looking for a new MINION to join our tiny boutique studio. Briefly the perks comprise of:

  1. Working from home.
  2. Working your own hours.
  3. Writing games for iOS.
  4. Working for an award winning, renowned studio.
  5. Generous holidays.
  6. Being surrounded by beautiful women.

Only one of those statements is possibly untrue.

The conditions, disadvantanges and small print of your employment are thus:

  1. Miserly pay. We don’t have lots of cash but we’ve got enough to pay you a frugal living.
  2. You’ve got to be a UK taxpayer. Where you actually are we don’t care.
  3. Your first job will be to port all our games to iOS, which is not as exciting as it sounds.
  4. Only later will you get to do interesting stuff.

To this end we seek solicitations from UNIVERSITY GRADUATES with a PORTFOLIO OF GAMES PROGRAMMING EXPERIENCE on iOS who is able to attend an interview in Taunton within the next 3 months. You might not necessarily be a graduate, but then you’ll have a really great portfolio consisting of at least one FINISHED GAME. It would be extraordinarily beneficial if you are proficient in Java, OpenGL, and maybe C++ or C as well.

Please email your CV, either a URL, .doc, or .pdf, to cprince@puppygames.net with the subject “MINION”. Please include hyperlinks to any stuff we can check out online such as demos or video, and also include a covering letter saying what your salary expections might be so we can have a good chortle.

I’m afraid we CAN’T AFFORD AGENCY FEES so if you’re a pimp, I’m afraid you won’t get lucky this time around.

If after all the UNUSUAL JOB ADVERT HONESTY you still aren’t put off then this might be the job for you!

More Pies! More Ale! More Droids!

Over the weekend you lucky game playing types may have noticed that Revenge of the Titans got a bit of a bump up to version 1.80.12. A seemingly minor version number update – but no! This one contains the secret new buildings! Pretty much that’s all we did for this release – maybe fixed a few really minor things but I can’t remember what they were.

As usual the procedure for updating the game is simply download the latest version from where you originally got it, reinstall, and you’re done. Steam will update the game automatically, but we’re still waiting for them to make it live I think.

New building info…

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Revenge of the Source Code

Finally as promised, you can take a look at the source code to Revenge of the Titans here. Inside that zip file you will find:

  • A src folder containing all the Java and XML source code. Yes, the package name is “worm”. It’s a long story. The whole project was codenamed Ultraworm.
  • A docs folder containing some licenses and a readme.
  • A libs folder containing the Java dependencies for the project.

License

Now read this carefully: you can do what you want with the contents of that zip, provided you leave the license header alone that’s at the top of each file and respect its meaning (and the licenses of the various libraries). Make your own RTS or Tower Defence game, pinch any bits of code you like from within (in which case the license header is probably in a grey area but… I don’t care much), or maybe make some mods for Revenge of the Titans itself.

What you absolutely may not do is redistribute our assets – that’s the graphics and sounds and music – without our express permission, which if I don’t know you quite well, you are unlikely to get. Although some of the sound in the game comes from the incredibly awesome Freesound.org project, the oggs and jars are still ours; if you want the original .wav files which are licensed under the creative commons license, we’ve included links to every one of them in the docs.

You may also absolutely not use the name “Revenge of the Titans”, “Puppygames”, or “Shaven Puppy Ltd” when redistributing any derivative works without our express permission, as that’d again be stepping on our trademarks.

Some bright spark might cunningly put the lot up on github or sourceforge or whatever – go ahead. Said bright spark might also produce an Ant build.xml file.

Support

This is very important: I have almost no time to actually support this source code and your many complicated questions about how it works. If you’re asking me much about how it works in the first place I suspect you shouldn’t be bothering to look at the source anyway.

Anyone who emails the support email address about the source code will be ignored, after being hung by the foreskin until sorry.

Other than that: I now apologise in advance for the extremely crappy code and terrible inaccurate or nonexistent commenting! It just grew that way. In fact it’s all been growing for 10 years and the subject of constant bodging, retrofitting, and general breaking and poor design. I have it on good authority from Markus that it’s not quite as horrible as the Minecraft code but I suspect it’s not far off.

Making Mods

The one area where I will help out is making mods for the game. However, it’s quite an advanced sort of subject, and I shall expound upon exactly how to do this in a forthcoming blog post.

Other News

I got another 2000 keys from Steam, just as we were about to run out. And finally the Steam version has been patched to v1.80.11. The Mac version is imminent.

Steam keys! Eurogamer review! Megatitan attack, Ann Arbor, Michigan!

First of all, the Steam key generator wotsit is now up and running here … and hopefully it works too. Go try it blog squadron, then we’ll fix it when we find out it doesn’t work, and then we’ll send out a newsletter.

Secondly, we got a very nice review on Eurogamer.net – 8/10 aint bad and it’s full of nice quotes too …

Hundreds of Titans will die, but still they come. As levels creep towards their end, the apparently endless spew of chomping 2D horrors finally peters out, the frown will lift from your face, the sweat will be wiped from your brow, and you will feel good.

…and…

Titans has been continually honed during approximately 38 million years in beta, and it shows.

…for example :)

And thirdy, worthy of it’s own post if it weren’t for the overdue Steam keys thing, we bring you breaking news…

I have photographic evidence of a Megatitan attack during a street parade in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan yesterday. An entire album of evidence!

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/BcTEOtk6-vZAfCGd_TpbQQ?feat=directlink

Pity these hapless souls who you see carried in the wake of its destructive power! I was an eyewitness, and I count myself fortunate that I lived to tell the tale! Crowds gathered on the sidewalk, amazed at its mighty roar– an echoing bellow of fury as loud as a megaphone!

The creature defeated Mario. It defeated Wallace and Grommit. It even defeated a camel and an octopus. Nothing could stand before its might!

Who, then, saved the planet earth? The alien invaders had failed to account for one thing. On this planet, H20 falls from the very sky itself. This element was the only thing that could penetrate a carapace of pure cardboardium!

I urge you to spread news of this invasion! More photographic and video evidence will be forthcoming!

your faithful correspondent,
Matt Arnold

We will indeed bring you any further updates as soon as we get them – who knows where the Titans will strike next!

News update!

Just as we we’re going to press, as they say, we’ve received further footage of the days events…

Bigger than the one we bagged in Trafalgar Square! Had that one stuffed, we did. Jolly good, eh what!

Indeed!