PSA: XBox 360 Wireless Controllers on PC

PSA: connecting a wireless XBox 360 controller to your PC with the USB cable does not in fact make it a wired controller. That cable is called a “play & charge” cable. All it does is provide power to the controller but does not transmit any data. Therefore, a wireless receiver is still required.

Illogical, but it’s the truth. When you plug it into your PC, Windows will complain that it doesn’t recognize the device and that it may be damaged, but nothing is amiss. Just a stupid decision on Microsoft’s part.

Yes, I really did waste too much time on that.

Deleting SecuROM (and other tricky) Files

When I rebuilt my computer recently, I copied over my old users directory, including AppData. Inside there was a directory for SecuROM that included 2 files that won’t delete via the Recycle Bin. This is because SecuROM is anti-consumer and thinks that punishing customers is the way to gain their loyalty. However, because this is a computer, anything that can be done can be undone with the proper tools.

You’ll need your trusty command prompt for this. Once you have one open, the magic command to delete undeletable SecuROM (or other) files is:

del /S /Q /F “C:\Users\<your_username>\AppData\Roaming\SecuROM\”

Ensure the path is enclosed in quotes if it contains any spaces. That should do it! You can then delete the directory normally.

Plantronics GameCom 780 Drivers

This took way too long to find. If you have the Plantronics GameCom 780 USB headset like I do and you reinstall your OS, you may have trouble finding the driver download for the Dolby surround. They work just fine in Windows 8 via plug and play, but the Dolby surround doesn’t work. Here is the link to download the drivers:

http://www.plantronics.com/us/support/myheadset/control-pc-audio.jsp

For some reason, Plantronics has hidden that download extremely well.

Then, in Windows 8, after it has extracted itself (which it does into Program Files (x86) without any warning), you have to right-click the Setup.exe, click the Compatibility tab, and tell it to run in Windows 7 compatibility mode and as administrator.

The setup will take 30-60 seconds. When it’s done, everything will work (even without rebooting). The tray icon should show up and clicking the button on your headset will switch on Dolby Surround mode.

1GAM: Tactical Space Release

Woohoo! First game is done! Download it here:

Tactical Space Release, 5.8 MB 7z

Yes, I shrunk the size from last time by deleting a bunch of textures I wasn’t using. Here are a few screenshots from this latest version to entice you to download it:

TacticalSpace_Release_SS1
Title Screen
TacticalSpace_Release_SS2
Press F1 and F2 for debug info.
TacticalSpace_Release_SS3
Winning!
TacticalSpace_Release_SS4
Level 3 (the last)

 

I’m mostly happy with how it turned out. I still like the concept, but the mechanics need a lot of tuning to be more fun. Mostly it consists of: shoot randomly and… watch the puzzle solve itself. It’s interesting from a programming and conceptual point of view, but I think much less fun for the gamer. It’s also not nearly as tactical as I was hoping. When the planets don’t move, it’s incredibly easy. When they do move, they move so fast that getting hits through is random and it becomes extremely difficult aside from spraying the field. If ammo were limited, this would be incredibly frustrating. With unlimited ammo, being tactical is pointless when you can just spray and pray.

I once read that when making games, there are three types of fun:

  1. Fun for the gamer.
  2. Fun for the programmer.
  3. Fun for the computer.

I feel like Tactical Space falls too much into buckets 2 and 3, and not enough of bucket 1. Lesson learned for next time!

Additional lessons learned:

  1. I need a tool to start handling my sprite sheets. The Milkshake editor doesn’t cut it when sprite sheets are changing with assets. Assets I don’t end up using that I want to remove are a bit of a pain. I was able to do it easily manually this time, but only because this is a very small project. I’m going to try to integrate TexturePacker into my process.
  2. IrfanView is a cool concept but handles PNG transparency like the ’90’s. Disappointed.
  3. With many bullets on the screen, performance comes to a crawl. I think because Farseer Physics is way overkill for this game (radius distance collision would have been perfect) and because I think I’m supposed to scale the world to non-real-size (0.1 maybe) and I’m not currently doing that. I may even switch over to polygon collision soon.
  4. I need a re-useable library of my common stuff. I’ve now made so many quick hack games that I’m starting to see what’s reusable across games.

I don’t currently have the source uploaded anywhere but am willing to get it posted (or emailed) if people want it.

Until next time!

(Tech notes: written in .NET 4, XNA, Visual Studio 2012, IceCream engine, Indie Graphics Builder sprites.)

XNA 2d Framework

I’ll just come out and say it: I really enjoy 2d games. I love it when game companies license classic IP, like from the SNES era, and revamp it with HD graphics and modern gameplay, while keeping it 2d (or 2.5d). When going from 2d to 3d, it often changes the gameplay so significantly that it’s no longer the same game, it’s just the same brand.

Consequently, I plan to focus on 2d games for the foreseeable future. All my current ideas are 2d, and the people who appreciate the sort of gameplay 2d offers are my peeps.

I already have a game started with all my own code, but as I build one reusable component after another, I can’t help but think these same objects have been written hundreds of times before me. For example: sprite sheets, animation, a “SceneItem” base class, etc. I found that there aren’t any maintained 2d frameworks for XNA right now. There are plenty of 2d engines that want to do everything for you, and some 3d engines. But nothing (that I could find) that gives a developer full source and says, “here’s a great base, now go forth, programmer!”

What to do? I’m not a game programming expert, but I’m an experienced enough developer to know that reinventing the code wheel is not a good way to spend time (DRY principle, except at a higher level). So I started looking around and found IceCream. IceCream is a 2d XNA framework with its own GUI even, called MilkShake. I haven’t been able to actually run it yet though, because it’s targeting the XNA 3.1 framework (downloading now). Building the source targeting XNA 4 leads to many (many) errors, that I’m thinking about fixing. If I can get it working in a few evenings and get all that usable code, it’ll be worth it. I’ve just emailed the author to find out what license the code has been released in (I think MS-PL) before I spend time on it.