13 October 2010

All Apologies

So I've been meaning to blog for awhile now but HOLY CRAP HAVE WE BEEN BUSY!

I think we entered hell right after E3. At the time it seemed like we were mere weeks away from launching Space Miner Blast and new updates for Ninjatown, but then Apple did what Apple does and released the iPhone 4. Man did that complicate things!

Obviously, we wanted to make our games optimized for the iPhone4, so we started with Ninjatown. Redoing the graphics wasn't too bad since we had the iPad assets done already, but the problem was the size - it was no longer fitting as an over-the-air download. To get around that, we created a system for downloading assets live, which was all fine and dandy, but then something really silly came up.

On iOS4, you can't actually quit your app.

Seems like a minor thing, but the problem was we needed a way to re-start the game and re-initialize the graphics system to use the Retina art assets. Since that was never an issue before, we had to go through and clean up the code to allow it to re-initialize cleanly without leaking memory. So after getting all that stuff done, and tested (didn't get any iPhone4's until late July), and out the door, we finally got the first of our "mere weeks away" projects done in August. Ugh.

After that came Ninjatown HD for the iPad, which was (is) its own minor nightmare. We got the game done and working and out the door, only to get numerous reports of crashing with low memory. Thanks for the 256MB Apple. It wouldn't actually be bad if you could use, say, even half of it, but for whatever reason the iPad can get into a state when it's been on for awhile that you lose literally 2/3rds of the system resources for textures. Most games don't really use that much, but Ninjatown had a TON of animation frames, and making all those pretty gradients requires 32bit textures, so there is really no good way to cut down the memory. We did cut it down about 25%, but that is still not enough though to not require a reboot on some devices.

Unfortunately that left us with a problem we literally couldn't fix without hammering the graphics and a shitty decision as a result - let the crashes continue or make the game look worse. In the end, I decided the look of the game was more important, and just hope that the next firmware update for the iPad makes things better.

So now we're down to one of our "just around the corner" projects left, and that is Space Miner Blast. At this time, it really is about a week or so away from being submitted (finally!), now that the rest of the Venan Arcade projects are clear. It would probably be done already but we decided to incorporate Game Center into it. If you're a dev and have used Game Center, you are probably chuckling/groaning right now in the commiserating way you might if I was talking about having my wisdom teeth pulled. I'll just leave it at that. But there will be GameCenter leaderboards and achievements so I hope everyone likes them.

Despite all the setbacks, this work would have been done much sooner if that was all we had to do. But in the background of our Venan Arcade woes were a number contract projects, which didn't help matters much. Unfortunately, those take precedence, so when bad things happen (and they happened), our Venan Arcade stuff gets shelved. It would be great to get big enough to have more separation between those two sides of the company, but we aren't there yet.

So as I'm reviewing this post, it seems to come across as somewhat apologetic, and I realize in hindsight that is exactly how I feel. I'm going to re-title the post to reflect this I think. It frustrates the hell out of me when our projects run late, or crash or otherwise don't meet consumer expectations. We're still pretty small so I doubt there is a huge hue and cry for our little iPhone apps (unlike, say, pushing back Gears of War 3), but nevertheless I hate saying stuff like "This will be coming out in a month" and three months later people are still waiting. We're finally catching up now, so if you've been waiting, thanks for your patience.

Now that you've waded through all that icky past stuff, what's coming up?

Well, our next big thing is going to be a Space Miner sequel. We're going to be more active for this one, and plan to do some blogging/developer diary stuff as we develop the game. Not sure if we'll create a new site yet or just do it on here, but if you are into "behind the scenes" type developer stuff, I'll be sure that you get all the mind-numbing, esoteric and unglamorous details that go into making our games. That being said, it is going to be awesome. Stay tuned :)