No Time To Play

Tag: optimization

Weekly Links #140

by on Oct.02, 2016, under News

Hello, everyone! As of this weekend, a demo level of Laser Sky can be played right here on No Time To Play, or else over on itch.io. It’s an early release, so no music or menu system yet, but you can see what the gameplay is like. Please leave feedback!

This week we also have not one, but two newspieces from Techdirt: one about a game developer connecting with pirates to turn them into paying customers, the other about DRM hurting paying customers. Again. And never mind that the game is already cracked and widely available for free (just search for it). This problem could have easily been noticed on time if developers had bothered to test on anything but their own high-end workstations.

Folks, once again. PCs from 7-8 years ago, with just 2 gigabytes of RAM and a single, slow CPU core are still very common. Optimize your software, or see your sales plummet. It’s a simple choice.

In more topical news, Polygon explains why the source code of classic games matters. I’ll add that it’s not just for the historical insights. But a lot of people who play games naturally want to make their own, and being able to study the classics is essential in any art. The difference is that in literature, or music, everything is out in the open by definition. Software, however, has source code. And without access to it, we all have to reinvent the wheel repeatedly. No wonder it never quite seems to end up round.

On a related note, here’s a write-up about voxels that echoes my old one, while being much longer and less technical. It’s worth a look, for the sake of comparison if nothing else. And as I’m nearing the end here, have this interview with the creators of Event[0], the new indie game everyone’s crazy about.

Last but not least, a reminder that the Interactive Fiction Competition 2016 just opened yesterday. So go play some games, and enjoy.

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Laser Sky progress report

by on Sep.22, 2016, under Gamedev

I wasn’t planning on posting updates today, since real life problems and bad weather conspired to keep me down, but in retrospect the game has progressed noticeably anyway, even if it didn’t feel like that at first.

So, a week ago I announced my new game, a good old shoot’em up called Laser Sky simply because the name was available — as opposed to pretty much anything involving the word “neon”. (Do you know how hard it is to come up with original titles these days? RogueBot for instance is used by a whole bunch of other projects, from a variety of fields. Hopefully nobody sues.)

screenshot-20160922

Anyway, at the time Laser Sky was just beginning to feel like a game, but still lacked variety. So one of the first things to add was power-ups. The first one restores lost energy, or else gives points if you’re topped up — power-ups should never become useless! The second gives you an extra gun (then a third in the tail, which was sorely needed), and after that it erases the heat build-up, that gets significant even though with two guns you fire more slowly. The whole thing took some balancing work, because more guns should be more powerful overall, but still come at a cost. With a bit of special-casing, and otherwise fewer changes than expected, that too worked out great. It requires a change in strategy that just makes sense, and feels satisfying. Not bad for just one addition!

(continue reading…)

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Weekly Links #87

by on Sep.13, 2015, under Gamedev, Miscellaneous, News, Opinion

This will be a quick newsletter again, if not quite as short as last time. Let me start with a link I found on the last stretch, to a Rock, Paper, Shotgun roundtable discussing Kickstarter in 2015. Here’s the one paragraph that struck me:

Isn’t it fascinating though that, when it comes to less conventionally commercial games, people would rather be sold a dream than reality? You’d get more backers for a weird or cute kickstarter than you would chucking a few dollars at something existent on Itch.io, right?

And that’s funny, because I was just talking to a friend the other day (hi, Chip!) about Patreon, and how he often has to lie to himself that the less-than-epic rewards that artists sometimes come up with (and we don’t blame them, mind you) are actually worth the money he gives them. While on itch.io, most titles sell so badly that a single sale can noticeably buoy me in popularity listings. And I get that dreams look better in people’s minds than finished creations, which can’t help but have flaws. But has the absurdity of capitalism reached such heights that it’s time to fire the creators and just sell pure marketing to a public who doesn’t need the actual products anymore because they already have too much stuff?

In unrelated news, the highly successful launch of Super Mario Maker prompts Gamasutra to publish an article about the many ways hardware limitations defined the original classic, and how they can still inform its modern successors. And over at The Escapist, Shamus Young explains why your not-so-old computer suddenly can’t play the latest games anymore. A good reminder for game developers about the complexities of computer performance. No, your machine isn’t typical. There’s no such thing as a typical PC.

Last but not least, Hardcore Gaming 101 treats us to a retrospective of The Last Express, and Polygon explains how Dragon Age costumes are influenced by cosplayers. I’d heard before about creators going for cosplay-able costumes, so this is pretty cool.

But that’s all for this Sunday. See you next week.

P.S. A gentle reminder that No Time To Play is on itch.io if you want to show your support. Thank you.

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Measuring hardware performance

by on Jul.02, 2015, under Case study

I recently had to swap my refurbished computer for a hand-me-down, to get rid of an annoying hardware defect. Both have the same amount of RAM and storage: 2 gigs and 80 gigs, respectively. The difference is in the CPU and GPU, and that’s where the comparison becomes very interesting.

You see, the old one was an AMD Sempron 64 rated at 3000+ (real clock speed 1.8GHz), with an embedded nVidia 8800 for video. The new one is an Intel Atom 330 at 1.6GHz, dual-core and hyperthreaded, with an Intel GMA 950 accelerator. You’d think multiple cores would help a lot with performance, but each individual core is slow as molasses by modern standards (which is absurd and ridiculous, but there you have it), and most software isn’t multithreaded, so it can’t take advantage of the extra cores. The result? Overall, a more responsive system as one misbehaving process can’t hog the entire CPU anymore. But individual apps are now over 50% slower…

Good thing the next games I’m planning are all turn-based.

As for the GPU? Suffice to say, Super Tux Kart — a lightweight game by any standard — used to run at roughly 70FPS on the 8800 with default settings (and original nVidia drivers), while on the GMA 950 it crawls at under 10FPS, with quality turned most of the way down. In fact, turning down the settings didn’t seem to make much of a difference at all.

Somehow, the game is still perfectly playable anyway. (continue reading…)

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Weekly Links #76

by on Jun.28, 2015, under News

Hello, everyone. In accordance to the new policy, I’m skipping the introduction. This week’s theme is game performance. Nightwrath sent me this link about what Kotaku thinks is a low-spec laptop. And it’s scary. I could rant about it at length, but these three recent tweets do a better job:

Having recently switched from a 7-year-old computer to another 7-year-old computer myself, I heartily agree. Especially as I have friends — and I mean in the US, not Romania — who would love to have my “ancient piece of junk”. More about this in an article soon.

In the mean time, consider this: there are people out there still making amazing games for 33-year-old 8-bit computers and pushing the limits. Imagine the kinds of games we could still make for the machines that used to run Baldur’s Gate 2, if only we cared about making the best of what we already have. But we don’t, because apparently it’s easier to build a marketing campaign on raw numbers…

And because I mentioned games for old computers, @gnomeslair links to a list of homebrew games for legacy platforms. I actually played one or two of them, and you know what? Even the primitive Atari 2600 can do a lot more than its hardware specs would suggest. Think about that.

Last but not least, you know what those 8-bit computers gave us? Generations of good programmers — people who grew up knowing that computers are made to be tinkered with, as someone from Microsoft points out.

Having grown up with the ZX Spectrum, like many of my friends, I can confirm that’s indeed the case. Modern software development may be infinitely easier, but it’s nowhere near as inviting. And that makes a difference.

It’s not for the best, either. Have a nice week.

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Weekly Links #14

by on Apr.14, 2014, under Miscellaneous, News

As of late, I’ve repeatedly posted links about the current generation of consoles and their woes. (Of which every generation seems to have plenty.) So it’s funny that just now a friend would point me at this older (from December 2013) video doing a first look at SteamOS.

As someone who’s been using Linux for nearly 15 years, I think I know what’s going on here. And it’s not very flattering for Valve.
(continue reading…)

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Memory management and game performance

by on Jul.16, 2013, under Gamedev

memory-management

I’ve spent the better part of a morning reading this article titled Why mobile web apps are slow. It’s a fantastic read, with citations, benchmarks and thoughtful arguments, and the tl;dr version is that mobile devices simply can’t be as powerful as desktop machines, and if you want performance then you need control over things such as memory management. And certain languages simply don’t give you any.

Now, don’t take everything written there as gospel. As a commenter pointed out, Python uses reference counting, so the argument doesn’t apply to that particular language. Also, this isn’t about ARM versus Intel, but mobile versus desktop. Remember Intel’s Atom line? I have the original Asus Eee PC 701, and believe me, it’s much slower than the 900MHz frequency would suggest. My game Buzz Grid stutters on it, and that’s a game I was able to port just fine to Java ME.

(continue reading…)

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Computers, games, browsers and performance

by on May.31, 2012, under Opinion

This article represents a personal opinion after reading the previous 2 posts made by Felix (see here and here): and I originally wanted to post a small comment, but as I wrote it, I realised it would become too big for just a comment.

A) Luxury and games

I think that first of all we should be aware of a basic fact which we tend to forget many times while arguing about games/engines: the fact that video games are a luxury, not a necessity.
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More about resource usage

by on May.31, 2012, under Gamedev

CreativeTools.se - PackshotCreator - Computer GPU fan

After my previous rant, one of Frogatto’s developers (hi, Jet!) dropped by to provide a counterpoint. And I agree that high resolutions, 32-bit color, alpha blending, particle effects and so on mean that modern games have to work much, much harder at putting some graphics in front of the player than one from fifteen years ago, even if they aren’t trying to look much better — never mind if they are! But I have to ask again: do all games have to be cutting-edge? And aren’t modern computers also orders of magnitude more powerful?

(continue reading…)

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A different kind of optimization

by on May.22, 2012, under Gamedev

I still remember when they announced changing the onboard computer of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1999. The new one had a 486 CPU running at 25MHz and 2M of RAM. Ridiculously more powerful than that of the Space Shuttle… and much weaker than what I had back then: a 66MHz 486 with 16M of RAM. Which was already obsolete, yet could still run Opera 7 and Word 6 (or was it 7?) as well as all the classic games of the early 1990es.

This isn’t a “get off my lawn” rant. It is, however, a plea for moderation.

(continue reading…)

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