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WOA 2016

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WoA 2016 | Team Bytetroll | Postmortem

I'd first like to apologize for the failure to provide community write-ups during the Week of Awesome. When I had initially started, I had fully planned to write a journal post a day, however, after day two of development, it became obvious that I was going to have to push aside lesser priority tasks, as the coding portion of this project took more effort and time than expected. Regardless, this postmortem post will be lengthy as I believe that keeping the community updated though the journal posts is not only important, but a major part of what makes the Week of Awesome competition so challenging and rewarding. One does not get the full experience of surviving a project development life-cycle if the documentation (or in this case, community) phase is skipped! This postmortem will expand on my previous diary posts. If you have not read my previous posts, and would like to, the posts can be found in my "WoA" developer diary, which can be found at the following link: https://www.gamedev.net/blog/2220-woa-2016-team-bytetroll/ With that all being said, lets get started with Team Bytetroll's postmortem post. As noted in my previous posts, I had a bit of bad luck this year. My normal tried-and-true team was busy with real life and alerted me to the fact that they couldn't participate this year (although, a day or two before competition, Riuthamus found out he had the week free and decided to compete; leaving me to compete against my own team). Furthermore, I had made the mistake of following the workflow I had taken in previous years and preplanned a week from competition start. While preplanning is normally good (yet alone a must), in retrospect, I took the wrong route when it came to selecting a programming language for the project. I had initially selected Java as my language of choice for three reasons: 1) Java has fast turn around time.
2) Java (for the most part) is stable and reliable.
3) Java (for the most part) is write once, deploy everywhere. Moreover Java seemed like the logical choice as I have many years of experience in Java development (although not writing games) and am very familiar and comfortable with the Java universe (tools, the way things are done, etc). Also, despite slot machine gameplay being the only type of gameplay I had never researched or implemented in my 15 years of working in the industry, I figured that it was a slot machine, and there shouldn't be too much logic behind it. However, again, looking back in retrospect, this mentality would soon cost me. It is at this time, however, that I would like to note that a majority of my frustration was not with the language itself, but with the limitations of the language -- something of which I should have foreseen. My original thinking was that several games had been coded in Java, all of which have at least average console performance. I found myself overlooking the fact that Java lacks a true programmer managed memory mechanism at the language level -- which is almost a must for any game. This proved to be the real hassle. Despite me being a first time LibGDX user, I had done my required research; making sure I was aware of their memory management scheme for releasing native objects. However, for what ever reason, I overlooked this fact, and didn't plan or account for it when creating my framework. The result was that my UI class was leaking obnoxious amounts of memory due to the way that I wrapped LibGDX's native "Texture" class. To make matters worse, I knew were and why the memory was leaking, but after multiple attempts (from both I and Migi0027) to patch it, had no way to solve the problem without a total rewrite of my framework (which at that point was close to 100 files and five or six thousand lines of code). As a result, I had to resort to my backup plan; knowing full well it was going to severely hurt my week. Despite this I kept true to my original promise[1]. I quickly cloned our in-house 'javac' compiler that I wrote and maintain at work and spent the next two days adding C++ style memory management to Java (which actually turned out pretty well). While it was a pain, it solved all of my leaking memory issues, and surprisingly turned out to be easier than rearchitecting my framework. This was not an ideal solution by any means, but given the context, it was my last and only option to stay alive in the competition.. After the memory leaking issues had been resolved, I was able to continue on with my last few days in peace; ultimately wrapping up and compiling my final build the morning of competition end. Implementing and structuring the slot logic was bit of a hassle, but an event system took care of that. Other than that, there is not much left to say. I am considering open sourcing my project and am thankful I got the chance to compete again. It was a hell of a week and I had fun. I'd like to once again thank Sean Forbes (Riuthamus) and Miguel Petersen (Migi0027-cdk) for everything that they did for me during this week -- especially to Sean, who took the time to hand draw my assets, despite him having to create assets on his own team's WoA project. To both of you, I greatly appreciate it. You allowed my project to ship (literally).
- The Troll [1] [size=1]Before competition start I made a personal promise to myself that no matter what happened, I was going to follow through, push, and finish the project -- even if that meant that the project was going to be shipped incomplete... even if that meant that I was going to have to finish the project after competition end.




WoA 2016 | Team Bytetroll | Day 2

[font=calibri]As 6:30 AM rolls in, I find myself wrapping up day two of this competition. While I found myself tremendously lucky today, once again, I started off rocky. I went to start programming this morning, only to find that my Mac Mini wouldn[/font][font=calibri]'t boot. Thankfully, I was smart enough to push my code to Git [/font]
[font=calibri]before shutting down last night.[/font] [font=calibri]Despite everything, I was able to make some serious progress on the programming side of things. I was finally able to wrap up my UI and audio playback libraries -- getting sound and textures in game. I was extremely lucky to have Riuthamus take time out of his busy schedule to lend me a hand in the art department. With out [/font]
[font=calibri]him, I'd be screwed.[/font] I've attached a screenshot of my current progress to this post. [font=calibri]- Byte[/font]




Woa 2016 | Team Bytetroll | Day 1

It is 12:39 AM here, which officially marks the end of day one for me. Even though I have competed in the "Week of Awesome' before" I was not sure what to expect going into this years competition. In past years, I had competed as part of "Team Slaughterhouse." During those runs, I had the luxury of not only another skilled programmer and artist, but of the fact that every year, our team had all of the original members. This year, however, everyone from Team Slaughterhouse was busy with real life, so I ended up having to take this one alone. To make matters worse, I realized early on (a few weeks before the start of the competition) that being a one man team, I would need to have fast turnaround time on the code, as I've never done real art (short of your typical programmer art). Furthermore, I knew ahead of time that I wanted to use a language that easily target all of the required competition platforms. For me, this was a critical point, as a few months ago, I changed my daily driver from a Windows box to an OS X box, and there was no way in hell I was going back to Windows. Because of this, I chose Java as my language choice. While I have many years of experience with Java, all of it is in business applications. Up to this point, I had never attempted to write a game in Java, as I am a long time C and C++ game programmer; generally preferring those languages to others. Moreover, I felt very comfortable with the tools I had at my disposal. Because I am a longtime fanboy of IntelliJ, I had the perk of a slew of various custom plugins, as well as a fully editor integrated Perl-based project management system that not only handled all of my cross-platform compiling, packaging, and debugging, but that also managed my version control repositories, and having countless other other tools and utilities for speeding up development. Despite all of the aforementioned, I found myself off to an extremely shaky start. I had taken the previous week before the competition to plan and prepare for the epic (lvl 85+) quest I had ahead of me. Because I didn't have the backing of a team, I knew that what ever route I chose would have to A) have the ability to easily incorporate not one, but two themes, as well as, B) be a small enough project to undertaken by myself -- especially given the fact that I had little to no artistic skill or experience. Due to this, I decided on creating a slot machine simulator/game. Knowing I would need as much time on the art assets as I could get, I spent the following six days writing a small boilerplate game framework. I had originally planned to use "LibGDX" as the core of this framework, so I did a little API reading and took special care to ensure that the framework I wrote did not reproduce functionality provided by LibGDX, as well as provided only the bare minimum amount of code I needed to get started. My thought was to merge in LibGDX when I needed it; linking in the jars like any other Java dependency for any other project. However, this kind of stuff always seems to work better in theory than in practice -- especially at crunch time. Come competition start (12:01 AM), I went to link in LibGDX -- after a long 15 hour coding sesh with no sleep from the night before, only to find myself spending the next four hours fighting the "old-style" builds I had downloaded. I was aware that LibGDX converted their build pipeline to Gradle a while back, but I try to stay clear of Gradle, if given the option (we use it at work, and it makes me want to cry). After a long period of frustration trying to get the old-style builds to properly link and compile, I broke down and decided to download the Gradle builds thinking it was going to be a typical Gradle install job. Instead, I was presented with a project wizard that made me generate a new project. While this would normally would only slightly erk me, I found myself getting pissed off with LibGDX's 'my way or the highway' approach -- especially since it just nullified by entire custom build pipeline (which is something I have come to depend on). After much cursing, I got back into my programming game; scrapping my build pipeline and writing a new one in Perl. I thought all was back on track until I went to start back on the game code and found that my 30 hours worth of framework prep was in the same boat as my build system. However, I was able to spend a good portion of the rest of my day getting stuff back in working order; thankfully finding myself back on track. We will have to see what day two brings.
Peace out




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