Category Archives: Uncategorized

Let Curators curate for Steam Direct

Valve recently said that it will replace Greenlight with Steam Direct, a method by which developers pay per game to get it on Steam, and (presumably) get the money back if the game sells well.

The idea of payment that’s refunded for games that sell well should work for reducing the number of throwaway games, or at least those which don’t sell well. Developers with successful games will spend less than those with many games that don’t sell. Successful games will get the developers back their money, while developers with many failed games will have to pay more.

The problem is that making a decent game isn’t enough to get sales, and that developers with little up-front money could have a hard time getting in if the fee is high.

Valve is asking the public’s opinion about the fee (a range of $100 to $5000 was mentioned), and already there’s reponse of people willing to pay for other devs. This, in my opinion, is the right way to go: put a high monetary barrier, and allow others to function as curators. This means that games liked by others get in, and those without fans will have a tougher time getting in.

But why not have Valve integrate this ability into the process? Why not keep something like Greenlight and allow it to be used in a sense like crowdfunding, allowing others on Steam to pay for the game to enter the store? Having this as part of Steam is better for Valve and for Steam than having it all happen outside of Steam, because the path for developers will be clear, Steam users get involved, on Valve’s turf, and Valve helps make a contribution towards indie development.

In particular, curators could be made into editors and publishers, putting their money where their mouth is and helping get the games they’re interested in onto steam.

Read on for more analysis and details.

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RPG Maker VX Ace from scratch – part 1, the cutscene

Some month ago I started playing with RPG Maker VX Ace. I’ve wanted to create a game for a long while, but¬†lack of free time makes it hard to do something complex, so I decided to try what I hoped was a simple tool but good enough to tell a (silly) story.

Jumping into RPG Maker development was a little harder than I had hoped. The standard tutorials I found early on didn’t seem to address what I was most interested in, which was creating interaction rather than creating a world.

I decided to create a small project to learn interaction, and figured it could be helpful to others if I documented what I learned. Unfortunately, as with many things, life and other interests took over (full time job plus little kids don’t leave that much free time), and I haven’t touched this for a while.

Still, I figured I’d still post what I’ve done so far, in the hope that it will help someone. RPG Maker VX Ace is often sold at a deep discount, and is a neat tool for game development, so I imagine that there will always be new users looking for help.

Note that I’m still a beginner. I’ve only played a little with RPG Maker, and what I did is based on my experimentation and what I’ve read on the web. Some of what I write here may not be the best way to achieve the goals. Comments and advice are welcome.

You can download the project containing what I’ve published until now (the first three pages of this tutorial).

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Syncing Outlook contacts with Android is easy

I don’t use Outlook myself, but a family member wanted his contacts transferred to his new tablet. It took quite a bit of googling to find the easy solution. That solution is called Sony PC Companion. It was obviously meant for Sony Android devices, but it works well as a generic solution. Just install it and tell it to transfer contacts to Gmail and it will do that, including photos. That’s something that exporting to a CSV file and importing to Gmail can’t do.

After transferring the contacts the tablet only got part of them, so I installed Synker on the tablet. Running it got all the contacts copied to the tablet.

So that’s it. Easy, right?

Debugging a program that crashed on another PC

Debugging crashes is always a hassle. It helps if you can see where the crash happened, and I found it non-trivial until I managed to get all the details. So here’s the short of it, and hopefully it will help someone else one of these days (or me when I forget). Note that it’s assumed that the program was compiled with debugging information.

  • Assuming the program is a 32-bit one, open Task Manager from C:\Windows\SysWOW64\TaskMgr.exe.
  • Select the process, right click and choose ‘Create Dump File’.
  • When the message appears, select the path to the dump file, copy it and past into Windows Explorer.
  • Copy the dump file onto a system with Visual Studio.
  • What you also need is the executable which crashed as well as a pdb file for it, and source code which largely matches that.
  • Open the project in Visual Studio.
  • Drag the dump file into Visual Studio.
  • Click ‘Debug with Native Only’.
  • You will now be able to go over the threads and call stacks.

Readyboost helps even with 4GB of RAM

My wife’s laptop (an Inspiron 1720) sits near the living room, a perfect spot to keep an eye on the kids, and so it ends up being used by both of us. I browse using Firefox, with tons of open tabs, and my wife browses using IE. Browsing these days takes a lot of RAM, and it’s not at all hard to saturate the 3.5GB of RAM accessible to the 32-bit Windows 7 (out of 4GB in the machine).

When more than 3.5GB is in use, the laptop starts going into slideshow mode, when switching tabs, programs or even using the OS can take long seconds. That pain led me to consider various options, such as installing the 64-bit version of the OS or getting an SSD. I eventually remembered Readyboost, which can use a USB Flash drive to cache disk accesses, and so has a good potential to speed up systems with disk thrashing, for example due to virtual memory use.

We had a 4GB Flash drive that wasn’t in use, so I plugged that in and configured it. I’ve read a lot of comments of how Readyboost is only really useful on systems with little RAM (1GB and under), but since we started using it the laptop has become a lot more responsive. We no longer feel the need to shut down applications or reboot. It’s of course not as good as having extra RAM, but it’s a whole lot better than before.

I’m sure that a RAM upgrade (impractical in this case) would be the best, and an SSD could be a good solution (I’m considering it, though might go for a Seagate SSHD), but as a cheap upgrade (free in this case) this is a surprisingly good solution.