1GAM: February is Different

Well, February’s 1GAM is not really what I expected. A few things happened in January/Feb:

One, it’s official that MS is killing XNA. We’ve all known this, but it’s really really true now. Announced true.

Two, MonoGame is the new hotness for XNA developers. I’m waiting a release or two for the DirectX templates to be made current, but I think this is the way to go. Keep everything the same (it’s event namespace equivalent!) while using an OSS framework that can run on Win, Mac, and mobile devices. XNA dying and developers moving to MonoGame may actually be a win for the community, though losing MS’s brains and backing is not a small matter.

Three, I realized I had been letting a lot of weaknesses in the IceCream engine slide for awhile that I shouldn’t. They became more obvious when I tried to make even a tiny game from start to finish for January. Little things, like sprite-sheet management, positioning being wrong in an annoyingly subtle way, and the code-base being quite large and bloated with large unused portions hanging around. So I scraped it to go custom. I hate writing engines because I think it’s a waste of time, but this way I can do things right and know where to go when I need to dig in. Besides, it won’t be nearly as big as IceCream.

Four, I found the Gearset library for XNA games. This is amazing. I don’t understand why this tool set isn’t mentioned in every XNA article ever written. It’s $35 for Pro and worth every penny. It’s like having better-than-debugger functionality in real-time. Bolded to make sure you read it. It’s a steal and I hope they recompile for MonoGame. It replaces hundreds of man-hours of coding real-time editing and debugging tools. What a find.

Five (wow really?), I installed analytics on my blog and discovered that my article on using the lidgren network framework to build a P2P app is by-far my most read piece (nearly 50% of all my traffic). How and why are still a mystery. It makes me think I should revisit the article, update the app, and post about it again.

Ok, I’m giving up on the list thing. Instead I will accept that this is simply a stream of consciousness and deal with it.

My February game was going to be a top-down zombie killer. I started using tIDE to build levels because it’s a great tool with a great XNA library (though it needs a way to bulk-edit tile properties). Then I put a little player sprite, a zombie spawner and zombies with horrible AI, wired up twin-stick-shooter controls, gave him a pistol, and wanted to kill myself when I tried the result. I stopped all game dev for 4 days afterward. It was terrible. I’m considering trying to salvage it into a Link to the Past like thing (think single environment, not entire world-map) but am having a hard time even opening the code base after seeing the abomination my own hands created. On the up side, I really like the progress I made on the engine. It works, is super-simple, and integrates with TexturePacker well. Next up: PhysicsEditor, then Spriter.

Additionally, failing is good for me. I should get used to it. Better to fail after a week of development in my spare time than after months of betting the farm on it. So really, this is a win.

But seriously, Gearset. I wholeheartedly endorse this library, and get nothing in return if you click any of the links or buy it. I’ve tried a lot of tools in my time, big and small, Windows/Mac/Linux, and this is a cut above. It’s simply a great tool, and you can try before you buy to ensure it’s compat with your kit.