Recap and WINErs

It’s that time of year again… mid-terms. Those pesky tests that take away all your time from everything else important in your life. The good thing is, I’ve managed to find a few minutes to write this up while I take a break from studying. Of course if anyone wants to contribute articles on behalf of GMNews, feel free to e-mail them to postMyGMNews@scorptek.net.

The first thing I wanted to talk about is the improvements to YoYoGames.com. There are certainly some nice additions to the site like better organization of games and softer colours that don’t strain the eyes as much. On the other hand, as Mark Overmars pointed out on the official YoYo Games glog, the site has been running quite slow since the changes were made.

Yesterday some tweaking to the database and cache settings were carried out and the server does not seem to be responding as sluggish anymore, with any luck this has solved the problem completely.

Something else in the news is the stir of trouble Caniac instigated on the GMC this week with his comment “It’s a pity that all the staff is so delinquent,” followed later on by “yeah, I wash [sic] I was a staff member” and “I despise all staff members that do not visit the forums.” Normally we are not one to point fingers, but Caniac himself sent us a news tip regarding the post that brought attention from Moderators and Administrator’s across the board.

Of course many other members had their fair share of comments, including NakedPaulToast who added “I’m not laughing at you, I think your behaviour is numbingly imbecilic, but I’m not laughing at you.” A separate user ‘Carnivac’, who has a very similar name to Caniac, was concerned that some users may mistakenly think he was behind the negative criticism toward the staff.

Lastly, Brian LaClair (also known as noobfarm) from Vermont, USA has sent in some tips for getting your games to run smoothly on linux boxes using WINE:

In the past few weeks I have been experimenting with the program known as WINE on Linux. WINE is an interpreter for Linux and Mac that allows the user to run .exe (Windows executable) files on a non-Windows operating system.
In the last few versions of WINE, game executables and Game Maker itself have become supported under WINE to some degree. Here is a short list of how to make your games work well with WINE:
1. Limit use of advanced draw functions
Basic GML draw functions (e.g. draw_text()) should be fine to use
2. Avoid using background images
Instead, try using sprites to display images behind other objects
3. Use the .WAV file format for sounds and select the “Use Multimedia player” option
*Note: This may slow down the game while the sound is playing on many computers, so sounds should be avoided in general if possible/practical. Consider an option for turning sounds on/off
4. Make your game full-screen (otherwise it may not be drawn correctly)
Following this guide should make your games run smoothly with WINE. You should experiment on your own with the game you are trying to make compatible with WINE to achieve the best results.
Hat-tip to Brian for his contribution, he will be awarded 5 pts toward this month’s prize.
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23k Games, 200+ Staff’s Choice

The YYG team announced earlier today that they recently had their 23,000th game posted on the website:

As of today there are 23,000 completed games on the YoYo Games website (not counting the beta games and work in progress).  On average it takes about 3 weeks for 1,000 new games to appear, meaning that we get on average about 50 new completed games per day.

The quality of those games notwithstanding, I want to turn attention to the amount of staff’s choice games listed on the YYG website.

I had lamented earlier about the flood of “staff’s choice” games populating YYG:

The staff’s pick on YYG is a joke – almost 200 games, and the YYG site has been around for a little over a year? That’s what, one staff’s pick every two days?

Compared to the now-defunct staff’s choice section at the GMC, there were about 20 times as many games on YYG, all selected within a quarter of the time.  Obviously, the games at the GMC were selected with a great amount of care, and each was accompanied by a few paragraphs of review.  The staff’s choice on YYG, on the other hand, does not have a staff review for each game (or at least one that is readily viewable).

Currently, there are 224 staff’s choice games listed on the YYG website, an increase of only about 30 more games since I posted my complaint earlier, nearly 5 months ago.  This is an average of one staff’s choice every 5 days, a number that is a bit more reasonable.  Might that thread have influenced YYG’s staff selections?

Probably not, but perhaps in the future a system that shows a little more care and discernment in game selection would be put in place.

Competition 4 (Save the Planet) Underway

As per the announcement by YoYoJim on the GMC, The Yoyo Games 4th game making competition has officially begun.  The theme this time around is green – and not just because of the $1000 US prize still being offered. The “Save the Planet” theme capitalizes on the controversy regarding global climate change, acid rain, overcrowding or any other problem that has the capacity to wipe out global civilization as we know it.

Tree-haters are welcome, as any viewpoint regarding this controversy is encouraged.  “Feel free to make a game where the world must be saved from a bunch of crack-pot environmentalists,” explains the YYG team.

The same old competition rules apply. So get cracking, creators!  The competition ends January 4, 2009.

Being Creative

I’m taking a wild guess and going to say everyone must be on a long summer vacation (or Winter for those south of the equator). It seems that very little has been happening over the past week(s) and it’s hard to report any news or developments. Even the news tips are practically non-existent at the moment and just about every other GM related news site has run dry as well.

So it’s time to be a bit creative. Since there is nothing to report about Game Maker specifically, I’m going to make things a bit interesting and split this article up into 3 parts.
1) General game/gaming related news
2) Game Maker related discussion topics
3) Non-game related discussions

PART 1:
Most of you should know by now that the much anticipated iPhone 3G has hit stores across the globe today. This is exciting news for a lot of people and could really change the way we ‘game on the go.’ Bundled with the new iPhone is an Apple service called the App Store. The store allows iPhone users to easily download games and other apps to their phone with the click of a button.

What distinguishes iPhone games from other mobile platforms? The software development kit released for the iPhone lets developers take full advantage of the powerful hardware and software built into the iPhone. This allows complex 3D games to be rendered and played in realtime and gives developers access to motion sensors in the device to create real motion-controlled games similar to those available for the Nintendo Wii console.

This could completely revolutionize portable gaming in the future. The iPhone can now run games comparable or in some cases better than that of specialized portable gaming devices such as the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS. For $199 and all the other features the iPhone boasts (such as a full size touch screen, 3G mobile phone, Wifi & 3G Internet browsing, GPS location based services, and more), the product will certainly be appetizing to many.

Discuss: Do you think that the introduction of the iPhone 3G and the App Store will affect portable gaming and such devices, and if so to what extent?

PART 2:
DISCUSS: Do you think having the YoYo Games team focusing its efforts on creating a Mac port of Game Maker is a good idea or lost cause? Would you rather keep Game Maker Windows only and allow YoYo Games to focus its efforts more on the quality of customer service and support they provide and perhaps more frequent updates to the Windows version of Game Maker?

DISCUSS: Is the name “Game Maker” preventing the software from ‘taking-off’ and becoming a major business success? Do you feel that the current name suggests the software is too basic and/or not worthy of ‘elite’ programmers who want to learn languages like C++, C# and similar.

PART 3:
I encourage all GM News readers to read my latest LifeXplored article relating to Echelon, a global communications spying program in operation throughout the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia. It’s quite scary to think that every phone conversation you have and e-mail you write is constantly being monitored and scanned by Echelon just waiting for national security and foreign intelligence agencies to review your communications and flag you as a terrorist, a threat or suspicious suspect.

The article is here: http://lifexplored.wordpress.com/

Please discuss your thoughts on the subject either here, or in the other article.

YYG Competition 2… and 3

YoYo Game’s competition two with the theme Ancient Civilizations has finally come to a conclusion. The staff announced the decided winners earlier today, and here are the final placings:

FIRST PLACE ($1000): Ancient Ants Adventure by RedSystem – isometric shooter

SECOND PLACE ($500):Caveman Craig by RhysAndrews – Simulator

THIRD PLACE ($250): Tut’s Test by KC LC – 3D Puzzle


With about 260 entries to the competition, achieving first second or third place becomes very difficult. We give special congratulations to RedSystem, RhysAndrews, and KCLC for their super hard work, and we acknowledge the hard work of every one else who participated in the competition. Good work, and we wish all the best in any future competitions you participate in.

As for competition 3, it has already begun. The theme, if you do not know already is cooperation. The prizes are the same, but there are still some key differences in the new competition.

For one, YoYo Games requires that the game is playable in single player mode (implying that the game should also involve co-op or multiplayer modes). YoYo Games also recommends not using online severs to run the game (indicating any multiplayer game play should either be at the same computer, or run on a computer <=> computer basis rather than having a middle-man server in between.

The deadline for the competition is expected to be August 24th 2008, so get working now.

Unfortunately at the time I wrote this article, the YoYo Games server was down (again), so the source of most of the information is from an independent blog.

C++ Beta Green Light, Mac Beta Red Light

According to a post on the official YoYo Game’s glog, the C++ runner is almost complete and ready for a (Windows) beta this month. We are still waiting on details for the sign-up procedure for the beta, but we will keep you informed.

From what we have learned, The YoYo Games team is using a software package called Lazarus to help port the Game Maker software to Mac OS X. What strikes Lazarus as interesting is it’s ability to work with other Operating systems not yet mentioned by the YoYo Games staff. For example, Lazarus has shown the ability to make applications for Linux, FreeBSD and Windows CE (for mobile devices). A post at the GMC is currently speculating the potential of Game Maker and future possibilities with the help of Lazarus.

Unfortunately, do to a problem YoYo Games has encountered with Lazarus, the Mac version of Game Maker is stuck at a red light for the time being. The programming team is waiting for a fix so they can get a move on. This setback is out of the company’s control, and is expected to delay the beta release until July (the beta was first expected in March of this year).

The glog post also mentions the ‘hiccups’ the YoYo Games servers have been experiencing recently. In order to compensate for this, 4 GB of additional ram has been added to the main web server. The company is also researching the possibility of applying a patch to Apache to fix some of the problems it is allegedly causing.

In addition to this, one of YoYo Game’s staff members is now working from home. This is expected to help by reduce the work load that would normally accumalate outside of office hours and on week-ends. It will also ensure faster response time to potential problems should anything go wrong outside of normal working hours.

Finally, a mention about the YoYo Game’s recently closed second competition notes that we could have a winner announcement as early as this week.

Remembering Shawn

January 18 marks a memorable day for many in the Game Maker Community.

It was on this day one year ago that well-known game developer Shawn “Shawn64” Noel took his life through suicide (with the news appearing on GMC the following day).

Most of his games carried a violent theme (including the well known Jetz series), with a few exceptions (such as Mini Golf Pro). It was through these games that he attracted legions of fans.

Even though a year has passed, many members of the Game Maker Community still carry this note in their signatures. He has left behind a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.

R.I.P. Shawn Noel
(1988-2006)