January « 2016 « Tidepool News

Big news!  I just registered for GDC in San Francisco in seven weeks.  It’ll be my first time attending this biggest gathering of game developers, where I hope to show Tidepool as I did at ISTE last June.  Convincing my wife to spend another $2000 was a tough sell, though the timing was just too good.

For months now, my project deadline has been March 21st.  By then, I need to switch to fully paid work, at least until the end of summer.  GDC coincidentally falls in the last week before this deadline, so if I’m to finish Tidepool’s beta by then, it’s a great place to show things off and connect with people.

Today is the first of fifty days till I leave for San Francisco, which fittingly was where Tidepool was born (at an OLPC conference).  Fifty days to finish the beta.   Fifty days to raise enough money to continue.   Fifty days to show the benefits of what I’ve done.

Yesterday I finished the compass UI, or at least reached the point where I was satisfied enough to move on.  It toggles with that left-most button and shows your bearing.  You’ll also be able to click the direction buttons to move to the “north” scene, “south” scene, etc.

As a developer and manager, the toughest choices are between the “right” and the “right now”.  Choose the former too often and you blow up the schedule.  Choose the latter too much and you build something no one wants.

Case in point … yesterday I “finished” card decks.  Here you see an easel. Click on it and it shows the first card in its deck.

As with any new feature, improvements soon became obvious.  I want the box size remembered.  I want a card-wide background color.  I want an easy way to center text (you’re seeing an indent).  I want a thumbnail showing in the easel.  These are all “right” choices.  But I’d already gone over the four hours I had scheduled for this feature, so I dumped these thoughts into a future issue and moved on.

The discipline to choose “right now” is the essence of professional programming.

Yesterday I added the deck editor (notice new toolbar button), which allows you to add cards to anything in-game.  Then when you click on something with a deck, the first card will show.  This is especially useful as you enter a story or a scene, since it lets you add narration.  You can also add help text to any of your agents or items.

This is your basic rich text editor, with add/remove and nav at the top.  The results are HTML, though there’s no easy way to add images or links yet.  I’ve got other things to do before I even think about that, so we’ll stick with basic Evernote functionality.

I’m already seven hours behind schedule, so there’s no time to finesse things.

This morning I started designing “card decks”, a new authorable 2D element in Tidepool.  Think hypertext Powerpoint, or web browser without the web.

My inspiration for card decks is HyperCard, which itself inspired the web (and Javascript) and was later replaced by it.  Had Apple known what to do with HyperCard in the late eighties, it may have created web, though we’d all be talking “stacks” now.

In Tidepool, you use cards for signage or tips or full-blown books.  I’ll have a rich-text editor that allows you to format and arrange text, embed sketches, and link to other pages or elements in the world itself.  What you won’t be able to do, at least initially is link to external web sites.  This is a policy choice rather than a technical one, since cards are displayed with a full featured web browser in-game.  I could show Wikipedia in Tidepool.  I’m choosing not to, at least for now.

In-game cards and decks will look like little billboards lying around that you click on to view fullscreen.  Inspiration here came from Croquet and Minecraft signs.  Ultimately I’d like elements within cards to be fully codable, much like they are in Etoys books, though I doubt that will happen during Alpha 4.

My first full use of cards will be the in-game tutorial which I’ll write mid-January.  Adventure will also use them.

Back again after two weeks, I’m relaxed and ready for the 19-day uphill climb to Alpha 4 and the Kickstarter.

I’ve got just enough time to finish what’s on my task list, without much time to find and fix new bugs.  This means I need to tread lightly and be diligent about timeboxing.  I’ve a few fun features to start with, then next week’s push to recreate Colossal Cave.

Beyond coding, I need to start talking to people again, encouraging them to play Tidepool, back the Kickstarter, and spread the word.  I’ve got about 230 potential backers right now who have been hearing about the project for two years, so many of them need reminding.  I also need to start my larger publicity efforts.  My family business was advertising and publicity, so I’ve got some experience with this, but I’ll be heads-down coding most of the time.  It’ll be tough to juggle everything.

Enough talk … let’s go!

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