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April 2017

Light Testing, and Role Playing!

Hey Folks! As some of you may have seen on twitter, today was a bit special and unusual. I did some honest-to-goodness role-playing! With actual people!

I was joined by @unormal (Caves of Qud dev), @JustASquid (Airscape: The Fall of Gravity dev), and @Mjoshua (Trailer Producer extraordinaire) to try out @WritNelson's Ellipses RPG in an adventure setting called "2 Jacked to Hack." And, well, I'll let Brian's doodle summarize:

Right! So that should clear things up.

Seriously, though, it was a blast to go completely off the rails of reality for a few hours. And if you're looking for an interesting pen and paper RP system with a low barrier to entry, check out Ellipses RPG!

I did manage to do a few responsible things today, as well. Some more address updating with various vendors and services, reviewing (and approving!) Josh's revised track from yesterday, some brief iPad testing, and the start of some new UI art for buttons that got bigger on mobile. Nothing I'm going to get a bonus check for or anything, but it does keep the loose ends from piling-up.

Anyway, it was a refreshing change of pace. And reminds me that maybe I need to make an effort to be more social :) Have a good weekend, all!

Admin Day

Hey Folks! More of an admin day today, and less gamedev.

The admin tasks were mostly financial in nature. Invoicing and paying invoices, and updating account info now that we've moved.

I also sent some feedback to Josh on his latest track. I think it's mostly on target, but I want to see what he thinks about reducing the intensity/volume at a couple points in the track where it might overpower the game audio.

Tiago just checked-in a series of changes to see if it'll fix some of the iOS issues we were seeing. And the result is a mixed-bag. We did see some improvements, but my iPad 3 crash was not among them. The good news is, at least that crash still appears to be isolated to my one tablet alone.

Finally, I took MailChimp out for a spin today to try out a mini-mailing list for iOS testers. Going forward, the new site will have a newsletter sign-up form, and I'll use that to send out announcements to interested folks. A long list of people (in particular, the press) have asked for such a feature in the past, and the RSS was the best I could do. Soon, you'll be able to opt-into updates for things like new game announcements, new version releases, contests, and that sort of thing.

So probably not the most exciting day for gamers out there. But still necessary!

iOS Strikes Back, and Website Woes

Hey Folks! Bad news. It appears iOS is back to haunt us again, this time with a weird crash bug. And for added coolness, it only affects my iPad 3!

It seems that spending 60 seconds on any given encounter or hex map screen causes the game to crash to home screen. Other screens are fine, just those ones are affected. And it doesn't affect my Android nor PC builds, nor anyone else as far as I can tell. Fun!

We also had some brief demo version achievement regressions, among other things. But I think we have most of them figured out.

Anyway, in other similar news, the website appears to be crumbling from beneath itself. First we had Monday's FTP quota weirdness, and now users are tripping security features. And if my Spidey Sense is accurate, I also suspect the site isn't sending notification emails out anymore.

It seems that new site can't come fast enough! Like we're in some Ducktales episode where the ground is crumbling behind us as we run away.

Let's see, anything else happen today? Oh! Josh sent me a new space exploration tack, and that was at least a positive note. Going to listen to it a bit more before providing feedback, but that's always a pleasure.

A whack of new "quality of life" fixes went into the latest mobile build, which is good. And I guess we're still better off this week than last, all told. It's just...iOS aaaarg!

Paper Doll Update, IAP Testing

Hey Folks! Sorry for the late news today. Errand-run this afternoon went long. Though I picked up some office plants to start helping with the air. I don't know what it is, but this room has a funk to it. It could be partially new carpet, but there's another layer to it. I think the lack of any air flow at all (not even a heating vent) has something to do with it. That, and I probably smell bad :)

The paper doll update is what I was talking about yesterday, and basically boils down to this:


Also a new superhero costume.

As you can see, way easier to target some of those new shoulder and wrist slots. Especially on a smartphone screen.

Also, as you could probably tell from the above, I have FTP access again. Somehow my disk quota was set at about 12% of the actual disk quota I pay for. The web host fixed it for me, and I can now upload a million new png files.

Finally, Tiago and I are still chomping through the bug list. We knocked off quite a few big-ticket ones last week, and are now at the medium weight ones.

In-app purchases are just about fixed now. There are some bumpy steps involved in restoring IAP on some iOS devices (possibly a manual app restart if it freezes during restore), but it otherwise works as it should. Plus, several fixes to slots being mirrored to the wrong side, and a nearly-done addition of swipe-friendly UI! (Some left/right choices on crafting or attack modes, for example.)

Not bad! And with no major errands tomorrow, maybe I can push a little further in getting more done. Until then, folks!

Accounting, and UI Rework

Hey Folks! Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. Ours was wall-to-wall home projects as we installed shelves, cleaned things, and generally continued the long-tail of moving in. The office is now a step closer to complete, but still a ways off.

Most of today was consumed by accounting. As we near the end of April, all of the first-quarter financial stuff needed doing. Things like filing quarterly and monthly business taxes with the state, filing quarterly payroll taxes with the feds, and then paying all of said taxes. Plus, this is about when I usually pay myself monthly wages, so that needed doing.

Let's just say this was a painful day for the old work bank account :)

I also did quite a bit of catching up on UI tasks for both the new website and mobile port.

The website has some purchase flow stuff that was broken in the migration. It also had some errors on user-specific pages (account settings and profile), as well as menu links. Most of the minor stuff is fixed now, but we're still working on the purchase/download game files section. (Possibly upgrading to more modern tech, pending a test.)

The mobile UI stuff involves both IAP and the paper doll. The IAP work is a new button for iOS users to restore any purchases they've made after uninstalling and reinstalling the game. Sometimes, the app store needs a kick to remember, and this button does that.

The paper doll changes are some erroneously mirrored shoulder and wrist slots, and beefing-up said slots. The old torso was huge (including arms!), but the shoulder and wrists were tiny. This will change the shoulder to include the upper arm, and the wrist the lower arm, leaving just the chest/stomach as the torso. Should be way easier to target with tap input soon.

Still not done, though. And having an issue with uploading images, or else I'd post a pic of it. So there's a website bug to look into on my plate, too. Fun!

Have a good night, all!

New Space Track! And (Partial) IAP and Web Fails

Hey Folks! (Partial) Fail day today, unfortunately. But we have a new space track from Josh, and it's pretty hardcore!

The IAP fail appears to affect some iPhone users. (Like, of course it's an iPhone giving us grief :) The user's iPad works fine, but their iPhone just won't recognize the unlock. Please tell me the iOS port will be worth all this.

The web fail, coincidentally, involves unlocking the full version, as well. In this case, some of the path info from the old site needs to be upgraded. I was able to affect a few changes to fix it, but there are still others in need of a fix.

And more importantly, I'm not sure how to upload new versions of the game on this new site. It'll have to be done, though! So I've asked how this should work.

Finally, and on a good note, Josh's latest track is in! It's super high-energy, gritty, and full of doom and action. And at first, I was worried I wouldn't be able to use it. Most of the OST for the space game is more ambient, electronica, haunting, or synthwave. This one sticks out like a sore thumb.

However, just as I was telling him that, a thought occurred to me. Maybe it can be used in one rare, and likely suicidal moment? I'm thinking it sounds perfect for the scene, and it also has a finality to it that almost guarantees it won't come up so often that it gets repetitive/boring.

So I'm going ahead with it, and we'll see how it goes! If nothing else, it's a nice addition to the growing OST.

That's all for this week. We'll likely be doing a website freeze sometime next week in preparation for the new site launch. So stay tuned!

And have a good weekend, all!

Website Pre-Check, IAP Testing

Hey Folks! More invisible work today involving the upcoming website, beta testing, and discord. Though, with any luck, it'll all be highly public stuff in the very near future :)

The website pre-check is just auditing all of the features on the new site to make sure they work correctly. Assuming they do, the next step is to duplicate it to create an empty husk, into which we'll start pumping all the content from the current Blue Bottle Games site. E.g. forum posts, blog entries, avatars, etc.

This will mean the site has to be "frozen" for a day or two to make sure we don't try to copy a moving target. I.e. you (and I) won't be able to post new content anywhere on the site for about a day or two (though likely less). Current estimate for that is Monday/Tuesday next week.

Once the copy is done, we'll review the copied site one more time for anything missing, and add that in. And then, LAUNCH PARTY! (Date TBD.)

Meanwhile, I just sent out a request to iOS beta testers to start trying the in-app purchase flow. And so far, we have some hiccups to solve. Everything from having to manually restore a purchase to the full version unlock not starting at all. A mobile game dev's work is never done!

Still some other UI issues to tackle, too. But that's the big one right now.

So nothing really fancy to show off or talk about. But soon... :)

Email Migration! And iPhone Success Continues

Hey Folks! Not a lot of gamedev done today (by me, anyway). Most of the day was spent on two things: office setup and email migration.

Email migration is getting my email systems moved to a new service. Gone are the days of my old email/name/web server as I migrate each to a modern, specialized server. So today was pulling hundreds of MB of mail from the old servers to the new one, updating account info, passwords, syncing to local mail apps, etc. A lot of time waiting between steps. Perfect for...

Office setup and unpacking!

The office setup is good old fashioned hammer and nails stuff. I finally setup the new shelves I ordered/made, and they're not bad at all! I'm still sort of figuring out where everything goes. I haven't had this much personal storage space in a really, really long time. Some stuff is coming out of boxes for the first time since...2009? Feels good to stretch out again and personalize a space permanently!

I still have a way to go yet. And maybe another file cabinet or mini shelf to make room for the last of the crap pile. But the stuff is mostly off the floor now and arranged nicely on steel and pine shelves. Looking forward to having the full kit on display!

Oh, and just to keep folks in the loop. It looks like the new website may launch in as little as a week. I'm starting to think it might be a good time to announce the discord channel officially, and maybe have a website relaunch party of some sort. Hmm. Could be fun!

iPhone Fixed? And New Office Shelves

Hey Folks! Hope everyone had a good weekend. Ours was crammed full of everything from house repairs to meals with family, and it feels like we've been on our feet since Friday. Work was almost a bit of a break!

But not too much of one :)

After squaring away several emails, bills, and the like, it was time to look further into that iPhone rendering issue we've been having. And we may have the thing licked now. Finally! We found this SDL scaling bug fix which sounds suspiciously like the issue we're seeing.

Basically, the code was calculating the screen scale factor using numbers that were too low precision, resulting in a crude/rounded scale amount (e.g. 2x instead of 2.61x). One of the beta testers already reports success on his iPhone 6+, so we're optimistic!

Also, my new office shelves came in! I have three tubular steel 6-foot uprights now, and bought several planks of knotty pine for some shelves to run across them. I sanded them this afternoon, and cleared away most of the space where I'm going to install them (a.k.a. moving piles of crap from one side of room to the other). All that's left now is setting them up, and anchoring them to the wall. Then, I can move crap from the floor to shelves!

One step at a time :)

Overall, not a bad day! Here's hoping that iPhone fix goes the full 9 yards!

Short Day, and OOO (Sort of) Monday

Hey Folks! Just a brief update today as I had to cut things short to prep for some house guests.

I did a bit of research on social login providers today, after layarion made the excellent suggestion to allow Steam and certain other providers to log into this site. Especially with the mobile release coming up, having to create a new account here for a mobile bug is probably more than most want to do.

If this works, users can login with Steam, Google, Facebook, or a range of other providers. I think it'll create a proxy account here to store all the info for that user, which means the usual site stuff should work, too.

I've created a task for the web devs to give me an estimate. I'm hoping not too hard/expensive, as there is already a plugin designed for this in the new site software. Fingers crossed!

Also, if you're a keen reader of the forums, you've noticed Galahir950's post about a discord server. First of all, big thanks to him for helping get it running! I'll be making bigger waves about it next week, when I'm more available to greet new users and chat a bit. For now, it's a more subtle advertisement of the new server to try it on a small scale, work the kinks out, etc. I'm pretty excited about it, though. A fair number of folks have been asking for something like irc, slack, or a similar chat area for NEO Scavenger. It's not necessarily a replacement for the forums, but rather an alternative way to talk and hang out with other users.

More specifically, some of the previous times when I've participated in live Twitch streams of NEO Scavenger let's plays, it was a great way to chat with players, answer questions, crack jokes, and generally hang out. A great tool for events, and might be a good place to do some special promotions! (E.g. AMAs, giveaways, scavenger hunts, etc.)

Finally, due to the aforementioned guests, I'm not expecting to be around much Monday. I may pop by a little as time allows, but Tuesday is my first official day back.

Hope everyone has a good weekend, and see you Tuesday!

Tutorials In, New Website Update

Hey Folks! The new tutorials were uploaded today, and the new website was also on today's plate.

Tutorials were finally checked-in today, as I finished up the reset button for them. I decided to add it to the Help screen since that seemed more logical than Options. More room there, too.

That, however, didn't stop me from rearranging a few things on the Options screen. Namely, getting the mute buttons aligned with the sound channels they affect, as well as adding some graphics to make the volume adjusters look more complete/connected.

I think the tutorials are now good to go. But as they say, "proof of the pudding is in the eating" :)

The latter half of the day was spent on website upgrade stuff. We are getting ready to migrate my email from the old host to a Rackspace account. It's a bit more expensive, but also should be way easier to maintain. I.e. I don't have to maintain it :)

We went over some of the stuff necessary to do that, setup my account, and I'll likely start the migration next week.

You probably didn't notice anything, but we also migrated to a new DNS server yesterday on Cloudflare. Again, this means better maintenance and sustainability under load. Basically, professional-grade traffic routing for the site, and no hand-holding needed from me.

We also moved the site's transactional email service to a dedicated provider called MailGun. It's (again) a professional-grade service for sending the various new account, password reset, and comment notifications from Along with the same benefits mentioned in the above systems, this should come with better email routing and verification. I.e. no more hotmail users wondering where their welcome email is! Woohoo! I have real email again!

Ahem. The final piece of the puzzle will come in a few weeks, when we switch on the new site. We've been working on a complete site redesign and upgrade, with new features and a nicer appearance. Even mobile-friendly layouts!

Plus, this is on (you guessed it) a professional-grade hosting service designed around the content system the site uses. So once again, a more robust system underneath it all to keep things running smoothly.

And as an added bonus, when the poop hits the fan, I can call up my trusty web developer agency and ask them to fix it, while I get on with gamedev. Amazing! Delegation! It'll cost me money, of course. But hey, so does not getting any work done while I stress-out about a security breach.

So while this isn't as exciting as a new game for most of you, this is kind of a big deal. Soon, one less thing on my plate. And that does mean new game stuff, since I'll be able to devote more time to it. Woot!

iPhone Woes, Tutorials Done!

Hey Folks! Another busy day today, so that's cause to celebrate. Though a good chunk of that work was puzzling through iPhone weirdness.

Just when we thought we had the new iPhone high-DPI screens figured, they're wonky on two of our testers' devices. The screen the game engine sees is different size than the actual screen. Like, we're scaling up 2x when we should be 3x. None of this is helped by point sizes, render sizes, physical sizes, and the various scaling voodoo that goes on.

I am really starting to dislike Apple again :)

In better news, I think the tutorials are done! Well, the first stab at them, anyway. I even had some time to add quality-of-life enhancements such as a timer to prevent one firing directly after the other, and shielding the user from clicking through the tutorial and moving accidentally on the map.

It's actually fairly context-sensitive, too! If you end a turn with a bleeding wound, it hints at the conditions screen. If you get a usable item, it tells you how to access that menu. Etc.

And what's more, it'll remember to only tell you these things once. Which leads me to the piece that's missing: resetting tutorials in case you want to see them again. It's a fairly simple task, but the tricky part is where to put it in the UI. I started down the path of restructuring things on the Options screen before I realized it'd make more sense on the Help screen.

Even so, some of the changes to the Options screen are kind of necessary now that we have a music mute button. So I have a bit of UI work ahead of me. Still, though, this was a large and complicated task that is (for the most part) done!

iPhone Testing, Tutorial Making

Hey Folks! iPhone testing is in full stride today, and tutorials are making progress.

The recent batch of iPhone testers are sending in results now, and we're already finding issues. Worse than the scaling we feared, some are completely unable to start the game due to unresponsive buttons.

So far, the culprit might be a UI resizing event missing from the various game states. But at least one user seems to have the patch for that with no effect. We're scratching our heads as to why, particularly since the emulator shows different results. More testing needed.

In better news, Tiago was able to close a whack of bugs in our tracker last week, so we made lots of progress on that front!

I've also got close to 3/4 of the tutorials implemented, and so far, so good. I was about to add the next, but I've run into a weird null pointer issue during item screen tutorial checks. I think it's just a matter of postponing the checks until the game officially starts (i.e. after skill selection), but I'm a bit confused as to why it ever worked before and not now. The programmer's curse!

The web team is ready to do a DNS overhaul for the site, which is slated for tomorrow. We're not expecting any downtime as it's supposed to be a seamless DNS propagation, but you never know.

The good news is, once done, the DNS will be managed by a dedicated CloudFlare service, instead of my old clunky webhost CPanel. In layman's terms, this means better resiliency to traffic spikes and bogus visitors. And if recent setup process is any indication, way easier UI for managing settings.

Quite a busy day! It seems like whenever I have a productive day like this, I usually say something like "hopefully the momentum continues tomorrow!" And then tomorrow ends up being a bust. So I won't jinx myself this time :)

BBG Office Setup, 2nd Attempt

Hey Folks! Hope everyone had a good weekend. Ours was not the most relaxing, as we spent it scrubbing, scraping, painting, cleaning, and generally continuing our move-in. I've been trying to leave business hours for work, so that leaves evenings (ha! as if I have the energy) and weekends to continue unpacking and arranging.

I'm sore all over from what amounts to Cinderella-esque janitorial duties and moving boxes around like low-poly CG dudes in a Dire Straits video. But I am rewarded for my effort!


The Return of the Home Office

Probably the most impressive thing about that photo is how clean the desk is. But the pile of crap behind is is there to remind me I have a lot more to do. Shelves are en route, and off-screen are some music-y toys I've had in storage for far too long. This might be a fun little workshop once I'm done!

In terms of actual work work, it was more a management day than anything else today. The website folks needed some more DNS changes, as my efforts seem to have been ignored by my webhost. I've decided to turn the controls over to them, since having them to handle stuff is kinda why I contracted them in the first place. (Note to self: keep reminding yourself of this!)

I also started revisiting the disease stats and discussing more with Kaaven and Tiago. I think this is a case where, technically, the system is working as designed. But the design may need fixing.

After number-crunching cholera, and then testing it in the live game, it appears cholera is only 86% deadly. It brings a healthy character close to death, but a careful player can avoid dying. Since cholera has a 50-60% mortality rate when untreated, this might be too low. But then again, nobody's noticed nor complained since 2014, when this change happened (in the PC version). But then again then again, who's going to complain cholera is too easy to survive?

Well, apart from Kaaven ;)

I'm going to run some more numbers and tests tomorrow, particularly in the other diseases. Maybe we need to amp-up some of these diseases by 20-30%, to bring them more in-line with reality and restore their former glory!

Visitor Yesterday, and Tutorials

Hey Folks! I apologize for the radio silence yesterday. An old friend was in town and came by to visit, so we were catching-up and ogling over retro consoles and Japanese stationery downtown :)

Back at the desk today, I resumed work on the tutorial. So far, it's going well. I have the overall system working. It covers the screen and halts input to the UI behind it, and will disappear if the user taps or does any input event. It saves data to a file so they only show once per-user. (Malacodor reminded me I'll need to allow users to reset this.) And each tutorial will have a priority so only the highest unseen one will appear first.

Pinch zoom was the first test, and is now hooked-up to appear the first time the user opens the item screen and a tiny item is on the ground. And I started to add one for precision dragging, triggered when the user has swapped an item on the grid at least 3 times since starting the game.

However, it's not showing up. Or rather, it's showing up and disappearing before I can see it. My gut feeling is that it's being opened as the result of an item being released, and the same command that releases the item is registering in the tutorial and closing that, too. There are ways to avoid this, but I haven't had a chance to try them yet.

So far, I'm fairly optimistic this'll work. We shall see next week when the rest get added :)

Have a good weekend, all!

UI Fixes, and Tutorials

Hey Folks! Back to gamedev today, thankfully. I managed to clear several UI fixes and improvements, confer with Tiago on some more, and get started on a tutorial.

The UI fixes were largely things Kaaven recommended after spending some time with the app. As someone who helped shaped the original UI with his suggestions, I was keen to see what he thought. And so far, some really good (if sobering) feedback!

The earlier sprite padding changes were part of this list, and today included some changes to recipes to take advantage of some quality-of-life changes Kaaven made in his mod. Namely, making "fire" a separate quick-recipe category, removing the talisman as a potential ingredient, as well as brightening the blue highlight when dragging items on the UI.

Tiago's also working on some changes suggested by Kaaven, including swipe support for some UI elements (toggling target in battle, attack modes, etc.) and some harder-to-hit buttons. He's also chasing down the last issues we're having on retina iOS devices (which we found thanks to video-Josh). We may have to go with anti-aliasing on said devices since the screen size looks illegible or has letterboxes from hell without it.

Finally, I've also started work on a tutorial system after resisting for many years. I think Kaaven is right that mobile users probably won't be as forgiving with unintuitive UI as PC users were, particularly since they won't be alt-tabbing to a wiki for help as much.

The current plan is to pop-up some tooltips at strategic moments to remind the user of certain UI features that can help. E.g. the first time they get a usable item as loot, the game will let them know how to open the context menu by showing a message and image about tap-and-hold to open the menu. The tutorial is dismissed with any user input at all. And after that, it will never show that tutorial again.

The list of events is currently 6 items strong:

  • Pinch zoom info first time small object received as loot.
  • Precision drag info first time items create a small empty grid space in a container.
  • Crafting output selector info first time recipe can produce more than one output.
  • Bandaging info first time turn ends with un-dressed wounds.
  • Sleeping bag info first time player ends turn with sleeping bag owned but not equipped in ground/camp.
  • Info on using items first time player receives usable item in inventory.

We may add more, or we may remove some. A lot will depend on how this feels in practice. We don't want them to interrupt whatever the user is doing, and we want them spaced-out enough over time not to be obtrusive. It'll be a difficult balance, but hopefully worth it!

Meatworld Interruptions

Hey Folks! As the title suggests, today was full of interruptions, resulting in a lower productivity. The good news, however, is that I think my plate is mostly clear again to resume gamedev now!

I won't bore you with the details, but most of the stuff involved updating accounts, paying bills, and signing docs. Stuff we had put on hold starting the day we packed up our stuff until now, when we're mostly operational again.

However, there was one interruption worth noting: a new network card!

Yes, I believe I may have my internet back. It's wireless now. It cost a pretty penny for both the router and adapter upgrades. And it took a heckuva lot of messing around to get right (unit positioning, rewiring, mobo slot-swapping). However, early tests show down/up speeds faster than the hardwired setup in the old house, partially thanks to a new router.

I won't be live-streaming HD footage of my gamedev, nor will I be winning any FPS tournaments. But I can at least upload builds painlessly and get answers on the internet without waiting for text pages to load :)

Feels good to stretch my (internet) legs again!

Back In Business

Hey Folks! Looks like I'm finally unpacked enough to get back to work. Still getting caught-up on all I missed last week, but it feels good to at least be addressing things again.

First on the list was getting Tiago unblocked. He made some serious headway last week on the issues I triaged. Most importantly, I think he was able to solve a resolution issue on certain iOS Retina screens. That, and he's been working on various other UI polish/fixes. However, he needed some more info from me to proceed on some tasks, so that was priority one. (Someone's gotta be making progress on this thing while I'm being useless :)

Second up was settlingup with video-Josh. His latest draft of the trailer is the one! It includes the latest game footage where I matched the player's outfit with the veteran's in the live action, so now we see both the newbie and veteran characters aligning better with the actors. That, and some polish and tweaks to effects, text call-outs, and "where to buy" info at the end, and we now have a super professional trailer. I certainly am blown away with how it came out, so I'm hoping you'll all enjoy it when you see it!

I had a whack of emails to sift through, as well. I'm not finished with those yet, but it's coming along.

And before I fall too far behind the repository, I wanted to finish up the sprite padding changes I started two weeks ago. I think I've got that done now, and it presented a problem in the sprite atlas for the game: too big to fit! All that padding added up to enough that 3 images no longer fit the atlas.

So I detoured briefly to scour the sprites for anything I could delete, and found a handful. Mostly old GUI options that no longer apply, a flash save cookie warning sprite, and some laser rifle sprites. None of these are hooked-up in the game anyway, and without modding support on mobile, I don't think anyone will miss the laser rifle, either :)

Anyway, quite a busy day! But as I said above, it feels good to be "live" again. I always get stressed when I go too long without dealing with work stuff, and this was no exception. See you all tomorrow!