Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Few Seats Left

There are a few seats left for the afternoon trip to Cupertino on June 6th. If you're interested, go here.

As I write this, there are less than 15 seats, though, so if you want one, I suggest you hurry.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bus Update

Just to let you all know, we're down to eleven remaining available seats on the third and last bus, and they're about equally split between morning and afternoon. If you missed getting a seat on the first two buses, and haven't filled out the interest form for the third, there probably won't be a seat. So, go here now to tell us you're interested in one of the remaining seats. Speak now or forever hold your peace.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pre-WWDC Schedule Update

The good news:

The additional bus is a go! We'll be opening up payment for those seats this weekend to people who signed the interest form, and then opening it up to the public 24 hours later until seats are gone. The third bus will leave Moscone a bit later than the other two (11:30 and 3:45), but will not stop at SFO. If you're interested in the additional bus, but need to be picked up at SFO, drop me an e-mail (jeff at martiancraft dot com) or send me a tweet, and we'll see if we can find a way to accommodate you by shuffling a few seats. Update: The third bus will stop at SFO!.

The bad news:

There will not be another bus once we fill this one. We're already threatening to overflow both The Company Store and BJ's, a fourth bus would be overkill even if we were sure we could fill it, which I'm not at all sure we could do anyway.As of right now, there are approximately 25 spaces left on the third and final bus.

The interest form will remain open until we either run out of seats, or we open up the reservation payment again. People who signed up on interest form get dibs on the remaining seats.One final note: last year, we had some people show up without signing up in advance. Please don't do that this year. Simply put, we won't have any place to put you. The bus company won't let people stand while the bus is driving, so if you're interested in going, you've got to reverse a seat in advance.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pre-WWDC 2011 Pilgrimage Additional Buses

Okay, here's the deal folks. We're trying to find out from the bus company what are options are. In the meantime, we need to know how many of you are interested in a seat on the bus. If you want to go, and didn't get a seat, you need to go fill out this form right now. If we get enough interest to cover the cost of another bus, we'll then send you all information on how to pay for your seats. Spread the word, because we really don't want anybody to get left behind if at all possible.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sold Out

Okay, I'm just about to head to bed, but wanted to let you know that we've officially sold out all four bus trips for the June 5 pilgrimage. Scott and I are going to regroup in the morning and see what our options are for adding capacity. Because we have to pay for buses by the day and not per trip, we have to be sure we can fill two more bus trips in order to cover the cost of adding an additional bus. We're also going to see if adding a smaller bus is a possibility and how that would impact the per-seat price. Whatever we do, I'll post about it here and also tweet it. But not until tomorrow. G'night.

Pre-WWDC Pilgrimage 2011 Update

If you signed the interest form, you should have received an e-mail telling you how to reserve seats on the pilgrimage buses. If you did sign the earlier form but didn't get an e-mail, let me know. If you didn't sign the interest sheet, don't worry, we'll be opening registration up to the public tomorrow. We thought it only fair to give the people who signed up in advance a bit of a head start. We should have enough room for everybody, as we're able to add additional buses if we need more capacity. We just have to make sure that we have enough additional people to cover the cost of another bus. Keep an eye here or follow me on twitter to find out when we open registration up to everyone else.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

3D Game and Graphics Engines

One thing that I get asked about a lot is whether you should use a game or graphics engine instead of learning OpenGL ES. Often, these emails are prefaced by a statement about how hard graphics programming. I've had to answer this question enough times now that it seems like a good topic for a blog post.

Honestly, I find it kind of hard to answer, because I don't see the "using an engine" and "learning graphics programming" as being distinct or mutually exclusive approaches. While a good game or graphics engine will handle a lot of the more gnarly programming tasks for you and shorten your development time, you still need to understand the underlying concepts to build anything of any complexity.

All of these engines are built on top of OpenGL (and/or DirectX if they support Windows), and are subject to the same limitations and strengths. Not understanding, at least at some level, how these lower-level graphics libraries work and the basic maths of 3D programming will eventually hold you back.

But… that doesn't necessarily mean you need to learn OpenGL before you can start using these tools effectively. You don't. It's just that some of the difficult, sticky math and concepts that might be scaring you away from OpenGL are still there (though better hidden), and you may well still have to deal with them at some point if you're doing the coding on the game (as opposed to just creating assets or doing level design).

Here's kind of a simple nutshell rule:

If you love graphics programming or are fascinated by it, then study OpenGL ES and the underlying maths and forget about using the engines at first (though studying their source is a great way to learn). There's always going to be work for good graphics programmers and you can't put a price tag on doing what you love.

If, on the other hand, your goal is to make a game or other graphics-heavy application, and graphics programming is just a means to that end, then use an engine, because it will shorten the amount of work you have to do tremendously, which inherently increases your chances of making money because time is money and there's never enough of it.

So, when shouldn't you use an existing engine if your goal is to make a game and not to try and be the next John Carmack? Almost never. Rolling your own game engine should be a labor of love. It's got to be an itch you can't scratch; the kind of desire that I probably couldn't talk you out of anyway. Otherwise, it's just a waste of your time.

What about when there just isn't an engine that works for what you want to do?

Honestly, that's not all that likely in this day and age, but even if it is, you're far better off starting with an existing engine and then modifying it to meet your needs.

From a business and financial perspective, it's almost never better to start from scratch. Even many of the AAA commercial game engines are derivatives of other engines. To give an example: Valve's Source Engine, is derived from their older Goldsource Engine, which itself was forked from the Quake Engine back around 1996.

Though there are quite a few game engines around, a very large percentage of high-end commercial games, both console and PC, are based on either the Unreal engine or the Quake engine or one of their derivatives. If you throw in a handful of other engines, like the CryEngine, you've probably covered all but a few outliers.

If it's not cost effective for large, multi-person development teams with multi-million dollar budgets to develop their own game engines, it's probably not the best choice for individual indie developers or small shops.

So, don't reinvent the wheel. Use an engine and stand on the shoulders of John Carmack and others like him. Don't spend your time trying to solve problems that are long-solved. Just be aware that using an engine can't completely eliminate the need to learn a little math or to understand the underlying concepts.


It just so happens that for a number of proposals I've done lately, I've been looking at game engines in some depth. I'm not going to do "reviews" per se, but over the next few weeks, I will try and post my thoughts about several of the engines available for iOS, including Unity3D, Sio2, Ogre3D, and Cocos3D.

I won't be discussing the UDK, even though it's a phenomenal engine, because it requires using Windows for many tasks, and I don't want to spend time in Windows. If you've got both a Mac and a Windows machine, however, and don't mind splitting time between OS X and Windows, you might want to check it out. A lot of time and brainpower has gone into getting the UDK to have incredible performance on iOS and the license terms have been changed to be much more friendly to small indie shops ($99 plus 25% of royalties after the first $50,000).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Empty OpenGL ES Application Xcode 4 Template

Jacques De Schepper sent in an updated version of my old Empty OpenGL ES Application Template, updated to use Xcode 4's completely revamped templating mechanism. You can download the new Xcode 4 version of the template right here. I haven't had a chance yet to test this out, but once I do, I'll also add it to GitHub. Thanks, Jacques!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bus Trip Update

Just wanted to give you all an update on the bus pilgrimage to Cupertino on June 5th. We had a tremendous show of interest. Approximately 300 people expressed an interest, plus several people tweeted and e-mailed after the interest form was closed down. Last year, we took 100 people.

Scott Knaster is investigating bus options, including a possible bus directly from SFO to the Apple Store and then up to WWDC for people who wouldn't be able to get up to San Francisco in time for the bus.

We'll start the official signups the middle of this month, once all the arrangements are squared away and we know how many seats there will be. Once the arrangements are made, the seats will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you filled out the interest form, you'll get an e-mail with details of how to reserve your seat and pay for it as soon as signup opens. If you didn't fill out the interest form, you probably want to follow me or Scott on Twitter, as we'll tweet when the signups start and then periodically re-tweet until the seats are gone.

I want to set expectations, especially for first timers. The only thing open at Apple HQ will be The Company Store, which is similar to an Apple Store, but with a lot of Apple schwag and paraphernalia (t-shirts, pens, mugs, sweatshirts, etc). Being not just a Sunday, but the Sunday before WWDC, don't expect to see many Apple employees coming and going, and you will definitely not be able to get into the quad (the inside portion of One Infinite Loop). There is no official Apple recognition of this trip, and we don't have any expectation that there will be.

In the parking lot near The Company Store, there is a restaurant called BJ's, affectionately referred to as "IL7" by Apple employees (the buildings at One Infinite Loop are named IL1 through IL6), which is fairly good for what it is. You can have lunch or a drink there, but if you do, I advise you to order quickly and have your check brought with your food. Since the same bus will be used for multiple trips, we won't be able to wait for stragglers. The bus will leave at the scheduled departure time with or without you. We didn't leave anybody behind last year, but we had one table that cut it awfully, awfully close. It's an awfully long damn walk back to San Francisco, and they get pretty busy on Sundays even without a bus full of additional customers.

Lastly, if you see Scott on Sunday, make sure to say a big thank you to him. Scott has done nearly all of the legwork again this year and the trip is happening very much because of him, so thanks Scott!