Radiangames’ little basement office just got a lot more crowded! For the next month or two, Jiovanie Velazquez, another former Volition developer and one of the art tech leads for Red Faction: Guerrilla, is going to be helping me finish my current (still-to-be-announced) project. Jio started at Volition not too long after I started at Outrage back in the 1990s (Outrage and Volition–both spawned from Parallax Software–shared news servers even after becoming two separate companies), so I’ve known him for a long time and it’s great to be working with him again. He’ll be doing characters, animation, and probably some background art, letting me focus on the things I actually enjoy doing.
For Bombcats, I had remote assistance with the art and music, so this is the first time I’ve had someone working in my office. There were a few technical hitches in the first day, but so far we’ve figured out everything without much problem. The way we’ve got things set up, Jio can tell me about a feature or bug, I can implement the fix/feature, and he gets it almost instantly. For instance, he noticed some frames were being swapped after he performed a certain series of actions in the animation editor. We figured out the likely problem, I added one line of code on my machine, and he just had to restart the editor on his with no need to sync anything manually.
The cornerstone of our co-development is Dropbox. I’ve tried using Google Drive as well for project sharing, but Dropbox just works better. It takes a lot less memory, syncs very fast, and gives a lot more useful information (and version history). It also doesn’t constantly give you a popup (that you have to click through) about deleted files, which Google Drive does constantly with a Unity project.
Speaking of Unity projects, one of the major issues we ran into was trying to run a (Dropbox-synced) Unity project on two different computers at the same time (it works fine for two computers if the work is non-simultaneous). The best solution I could find was to have two copies of the project on Dropbox, and create a few simple batch files for copying over any texture/script changes when necessary (the level/anim data is copied to both projects automatically). I’ll do a full Assets folder copy once in a while to make sure I don’t miss anything. It’s not the ideal solution, but it works.
Cheap But Useful Hardware
WARNING: I’m now going to wander into talking about the cheap but very useful hardware I’ve bought in the past 2 months.
Prior to Jio helping out, I had already set up Dropbox to let me work away from the office. My laptop from 2005 just wasn’t cutting it though, so I finally bought a new one. After a month or so of using it, I have to say it’s the best purchase I’ve made in a while.
I needed a keyboard with a full numpad (for writing music in Reason, among other things), a high-res display (1080p for programming), and a good processor to keep me working efficiently (so a Core i5). Luckily BestBuy had a sale on a nice Toshiba laptop for $549 right when I was looking. It’s back up to $649 now, but even at the price it’s hard to beat. Note that I have no idea how it plays games, because you know, I got it to get stuff done. If you want to play games on a portable device, get an iPad or PS Vita.
Occasionally I need a 2nd monitor for the laptop, and this AOC USB-powered monitor does a decent job. It’s not the nicest monitor (only 1366×768 resolution), but it’s light, cheap, and provides extra screen space without lag, which is I’ve found to be an annoying issue with tablet-centric solutions. On top of that, you can rotate the monitor to a portrait orientation and it detects the change automatically.
Finally, I got a low-end Windows Phone (Nokia Lumia 521) to play around with. That means I’ll eventually do WP ports of my games, but not until early next year most likely. So far, I like the phone a lot better than the used LG G2x (with Android 2.3) I had been using even though the specs are nearly identical. Windows Phone just handles lower-end hardware a lot better, and Nokia has an awesome offline mode for its GPS navigation app, perfect for people like me who don’t want to pay for expensive data plans. It doesn’t make me stop wanting a Galaxy Note 3 (I have huge hands), but it’s very useful and enjoyable to use for such a cheap phone.
In the end, all this hardware and help from Jio means better/more games. Yay for that!