Sunday, November 27

Bitmap Fonts, Java, Wingdings and Unicode

Bitmap Font Builder App

After my brush with the script-fu I thought I'd go back to basics and do the bitmap font creator as a Java app. I have whipped up this app for knocking up old school bitmap fonts. The gradient fills haven't really surrvived Pay attention to the picture, as it shows at what code points to find the Wingdings glyphs in the Unicode set. It's not 0..255, as has puzzled many Java coders before!

Thursday, November 17

Bitmap fonts and the script-fu.

Despite my rant against script-fu, it must be acknowlgeded it's highly useful for getting game art knocked out in double quick time for example, bitmap fonts. Here's a script that can knock one up in a jiffy - it's just a sligtly modified version of a standard script. I'm somewhat dismayed by the size of the .png file.

Wednesday, November 16


Today I delved into the realm of Gimp, SIOD, Script-fu; and let me tell you it's the least productive environment I've hit since the ZX81. I mean (set! variable value) is your assignment operator, so like a good lisp monkey I try (set! (aref string 1) "A"). Does that work? No. You use something called (aset string 1 65) why doesn't it have a bang, eh?

So, I want to create an array. Now I created a list with make-list, so, of course, I want to use make-array. No? Gotcha again! It's cons-array. Arrgh!

Add that to the fact that pressing the escape key closes the script-fu console window; which is something I do quite a lot, as it's hardwired into me that Escape means "clear the input" and that the documentation is just a scrappy list of functions that makes it hard to find what you need, that's a recipie for a very frustrating morning. The tragedy is that this is going to be some peoples first exposure to a lisp-like could be so much better; the scintilla component could have been embedded in, there could be a much better tutorial and reference; but I guess someone would have to be paid for that..

Monday, November 14

Sony are in so much trouble..

This story just runs and runs. Not only do Sony release a rootkit that installs itself onto Windows PC's without telling people, and get discovered, it turns out that the rootkit is a GPL violation! This one is going to run and run...are Sony trying to replace Microsoft as the Evil Empire? They seem to be taking a pretty good shot at it!

Monday, November 7

Package du Jour: Dia

I've been playing with Dia and been moderately impressed with what I've found. I've been using it as part of my course; being able to export to .pngs is good. It's happy with a wide range of diagrams: mostly I am using it for entity relationship diagrams and UML. There's even a uml to code generator for it which I intend to try using for my Java assignment. While I can't say it's as good as Visio (when did that become part of Microsoft Office), it's a cheap way for students to explore UML and "good enough" for most small projects, and it has an interesting quirky diagram set: isometric game tiles - houses, railways, fields - which can be used to layout a small toy town. It might even be a game prototyping tool one day; with the right tileset..

Change of Direction

It might seem strange to some people that I have recently left Reflections and decided to enroll on a Masters degree course; it's a strange thing to do at 38 years of age. Even stranger, the Masters course is not strictly games-oriented. Well it's not as big a jump into the unknown as it looks: many of the new mobile platforms use Java, databases are increasingly important - both as repositories for the huge number of assets used in game development, and for the backend of MMPORG's as well as their more humble play-by-web cousins.

The web itself is probably the most interesting platform around today: it's a mass medium based on a mishmash of standards and technologies that can be bent to do almost everything; a giant laboratory free from the restrictions of proprietary console platform development.

I'm beginning to suspect a much better (as in scalable, among other things) platform for games development can be assembled out of some of the emergent technologies available now; a distributed, social system capable of handling vast amounts of assets, and large numbers of distributed collaborators. It's my intention to try and assemble a platform capable of this, and offer it as a model for further research.

It's also my intention to learn as much as possible in a short time whithout my brain exploding; as this is the most challenging course my local university has to offer, that might be hard. Still, onwards...