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Ask Slashdot: Have You Experienced Fear Driven Development?

Tronster Re:Why Do You Accept This? (192 comments)

We do this too; we have a "producer" (akin to a manager in the non-game software development) in the stand up. If someone takes an inordinate amount of time or goes off topic, the producer snaps the stand-up back on track. If a pattern of this occurs, they'll talk to the individual after the meeting to work out a solution.

I agree with those who talk about FDD being a cultural problem as the arrangement outlined above could transpire poorly if the standup meetings repeatedly derail and/or the manager has horrible soft skills when requesting a developer to be more succinct.

38 minutes ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Phone Apps?

Tronster Re:What the hell, why not? (167 comments)

Thank you for taking the time to write up a list... I've been looking for a good weather App.
Also a second for Waze, a great use of crowd-sourcing for live traffic information.

If, by any chance, you know of a good calculator App (w/ dec, hex, and binary support) , I'd love to hear your recommendation.

about two weeks ago
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What Was the Greatest Age For Indie Games?

Tronster Re:I'd say "right now". And it's getting better. (92 comments)

History disagrees with the sentiment that it was easier to "make money" as an indie in the 1980s, or 1990s than today....

In the 1980s the distribution channels were being established which meant either you scored a deal with a bricks and mortar retail store, such as Sears, Babbages or Toy's R Us, or you ziplock bagged your PC game and tried to sell them at swap meets and computer stores.

In the 1990s there were more direct retailers and amalgamations of bricks and mortar stores occurred. The shareware model emerged and ziplock bagging disappeared. If anything, the 1990's were a bit of a dark ages for indies as either you had a publisher to get into a store or shareware.

From the 2000s onward we have an increased number of target platforms, and increased demographic of game players (from kiddos to those who grew up playing games for 30+ years... see: http://dmitriwilliams.com/will... (warning: Word doc)) , and increased number of channels (e.g., bricks and mortar persists (barely), online services like Steam, bundles, etc...)

If you (have aspirations to) develop indie games, it may seem likely everyone is creating them and the market is saturated but it's the same mentality as a musician at a "Guitar Center" thinking everyone in the world is now in a band; no, it's just the community they choose to surround themselves in. The signal to noise ratio is such that indies can succeed if they spend time build a great game and heed the lessons of other indies in how to market it through these channels. (GDC Vault has many free videos on this topic, such as: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1... )

I even have a personal example of a AAA dev who use to work with me, but left years ago to start his own 1-man shop. He was a graphic programmer who taught himself to become a better artist and has been making a living, creating games, for a few years now. Check out his studio: http://www.epacegames.com/ And can also site Discord games ( http://discordgames.com/ ); larger than a 1-man group but by making an awesome game and marketing it appropriately, have an opportunity to sell Chasm to eager players, an opportunity that would not have existed 20 years ago.

about 4 months ago
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What Was the Greatest Age For Indie Games?

Tronster Re:late 80s into the 90s (92 comments)

tl;dr: Accessibility has always been a concern and, there is more innovation happening today than 30 years ago.

I also miss the (video game) days of my youth; learning about games from friends, or by going to an arcade and seeing what new machine was front and center...later making ANSII ads for BBS's so I could obtain a high enough credentials to get access to their warez section and learn about the latest games.

That said, I chock my emotions of those days as nostalgia and recognize an indie in the 80's/90's had a much more limited set of options than today. From middle school to college my options went from Applesoft Basic with the Beagle Bros compiler to Turbo Pascal/C++ with the XMODE library. That's it. Innovation in game design, and mechanics was regulated to a task that could be accomplished only after you figured out how to get a framebuffer up, sounds playing, and all the other nit picky things required to build a game.

Don't mistake accessibility with complexity. I make games for a living and some of my co-workers have been doing this for 30+ years; accessibility has always been at the front of the games developers build. When 4k of memory was a lot, the best games could do was have paddles, a ball, and text written on an arcade cabinet to describe how to play. Later on we introduced demo mode and how-to-play screens, which worked particularly well with most games as they didn't scroll and limited play modes and/or mechanics to demonstrate.

And when games became more complex (powerups, scrolling screens, etc...), the games people played were the ones that continued to innovate on how they were accessible. A great example that codifies this early push for accessibility by design is in "Sequelitis - Mega Man Classic vs. Mega Man X" https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

If games haven't always found a way to be accessible, demos, tutorials, etc... they wouldn't be played because only a handful of us die-hard geeks are willing to read through the manual. So as awesome as it was making games in 320x240 with 256 colors with my own game engine, I know what I was able to produce then pales in comparison to what an eager indie can create today.

To see this innovation just poke around Newgrounds or go to any global game jam site or just look at the entries from one of the quarterly Ludam Dare's ( http://ludumdare.com/ ). At the Game Developer's Conference this year there was a whole section of alternative input games ( http://www.gdconf.com/news/gdc... ). And there are plenty of other sources showing innovation game play mechanics, some fun, some not, but plenty of experimentation.

about 4 months ago
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What Was the Greatest Age For Indie Games?

Tronster Now is the time, seize the day... (92 comments)

What constitutes indie is one questions (and AAA is even harder to come to a consensus, even among my work peers) but that said...

As a child of the 80's, who adamantly played video games (e.g., Apple ][, arcade, 2600, NES, etc...) and got into professional game development over 10 years ago (I work for a AAA studio and my have my own gig for nights/weekends) I'd agree with those who say now, 2014, is the best time for indie game development.

Powerful engines and Middleware tools are accessible with licenses that fit indie budgets (e.g., Unity3d, Unreal4, etc...) as well as a swatch of free software for development. (e.g. Phaser: http://phaser.io/ Blender http://www.blender.org/ Love https://love2d.org/ Flixel http://flixel.org/ Haxe http://haxe.org/ )

The internet, as-is, provides indies with a way for
- distance-collaboration (Skype, E-mail, Groups, etc...)
- community building (Twitter, CMSs, Facebook, etc...)
- fundraising (IndieGogo, Kickstarter, HumbleBundle, Paypal, custom web-based donation system, etc...)
- advertising (game communities, news outlets, etc...)

Organizations, such as the International Game Developer's Association (IGDA, http://igda.org/ ) and events like the Global Game Jam, PAX (IndieMegabooth), and MAGFest also contribute to the community of indie game developers.

It is a great time to be an indie game developer in terms of accessibility and ability to achieve a sustainable income.

about 4 months ago
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Eclipse Foundation Celebrates 10 Years

Tronster Re:If you need Flashbuilder, try Mac (155 comments)

I have FlashBuilder on my Mac, I only use it when deploying a project to iOS - it is awful. One example: With the latest version (4.7) I deleted a project through the OS X Finder on my hard drive, that I had previously built with FlashBuilder. Afterwards it refused to start up, immediately crashing/closing, even after a reinstall of the entire Adobe suite (a recommendation on various forums.) It took a few hours combing through posts to find a helpful one that mentioned some obscure user data directory that had to be deleted.

Who writes an IDE that crashes when a project on disk is gone?

It's for this, and various other reasons, I continue to use the free, open-source alternative FlashDevelop ( http://flashdevelop.org/ ) for my Flash IDE. It's the only reason I keep a Parallels partition on my MacBook Pro.

about 7 months ago
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VLC Reaches 2.1

Tronster Re:Great player missing some key things though (127 comments)

Thank you, you are correct, in haste I posted a bug which appears to be related to screen rotation but not the one iPhone users have.

IIRC the post was in the forums, and it was answered in a similar manner as these bug reports, e.g., it's not a standard so VLC doesn't consider it a "bug", if a user requires this extra functionality they need to take the appropriate steps to manually change the rotate transform in settings.

Just searching through the forum brings up various threads related to users asking for this functionality (searched on "rotate iphone"):

Reading through them now it appears that the issue, more specifically, is that EXIF tags are stored with the video clips that VLC is not reading.
https://forum.videolan.org/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=79068&p=260277&hilit=rotate+iphone#p260277

about a year ago
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VLC Reaches 2.1

Tronster Great player missing some key things though (127 comments)

VLC is a fantastic free program, but the attitude some/one of their devs have towards it's users is disheartening for the project as a whole.

A friend recorded a video with her phone, and held it so the video was taken in "portrait mode" vs. "landscape mode". On a PC I was surprised when VLC was unable to correctly orient itself as I was use to my Mac's native application always orienting properly.

I spent the time looking for solutions on their forum and the devs responses is nothing short of arrogant:
https://trac.videolan.org/vlc/ticket/7766

Essentially users are told this is not a bug in VLC because the videos use a non-standard way of marking the video as rotated. Further they go on to say if a user wants to look at it, as it was shot, they need to manually tweak the rotation on the transform for playback. After a 7 step menu navigation process, this has the side effect of having to change the transform back for the next video you wish to play if it was shot in landscape mode. Essentially this has to be done on a video-by-video basis.

I'm hoping there are some Open Source projects that actually implement this correctly, but from the few I've tried so far, they all seem to have the same bug as VLC when it comes orientation. Standard or not, ignoring this rotation bit is rendering the program as crippled for 100,000's of people shooting videos this way. Coincidentally, I haven't found a commercial program that is subject to the bug, everyone I've tried (e.g., Quicktime, Adobe Premier, etc...) renders it properly.

I can always hope that, eventually, someone on the team will see the value in implementing this fix.

about a year ago
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Is It Time To Enforce a Gamers' Bill of Rights?

Tronster Re:bitching is essential (469 comments)

Maybe it's semantics, but I see "complain" to be different than "disagree". To that end there is a difference between having the "right" to complain vs. being "justified" in complaining.

So sure, you have a "right" to complain whether you bought it or not; but you're not really justified in that action unless you put money down for it.
But you can disagree with the product either way.

I havent' bought an EA game that uses Origin because I disagree with the service, restrictions, and how some vocal (complaining) players have lost access to their catalog. I fear any company having that power; that as I purchase more games I have more to lose if I speak up against something I find to be an injustice (such as DRM).

If enough sales are made, a publisher is initially not interested in the voice of those who did not purchase the game until the long tail starts and new market segments have to be tapped. As of today, EA is focusing only on those who purchased the game, because they actually fronted money to play. From everything I've seen, they've been doing an excellent job to, as quickly as possible, fix a really crappy situation; namely failure by their own success.

Now if the game was never initially purchased by the target market, and the reason gamers gave on surveys was "DRM", the studio would remove it, or at the very least scale back on how pervasive it acts. The fact is: the wide majority of gamers hate DRM, talk a good talk about how it's evil, but still shell out money because, as sconeu writers in a thread below, their mentality when told they should just abstain from purchasing it is, "'But then I can't play my shiny!!!!'"

So to the OP, no; we don't need a "Gamer Bill of Rights" because we have one right now: it's our wallet. Only purchase games that you believe in. If the DRM, ethics behind a company, or anything else that has to do with a game/publisher/etc... is disagreeable with you, simply don't buy their product. That's what I do. I look forward to seeing what indie makes a SimCity-like game that compares on it's level of fun; that's where I'll be putting my money, but until then I'll wait and find other games to play.

about a year and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Much Is a Fun Job Worth?

Tronster Money won't bring happiness (397 comments)

Years ago, I left a contracted programming job at a startup that paid about $150k annually, to pursue AAA game development, starting in the low $40k.
Whether working the 40 hr/week or in crunch, I was doing something I absolutely loved.
It was both one of the riskiest and best decisions I ever made, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

about 2 years ago
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Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset Blows Past Kickstarter Goal

Tronster Re:Another Kickstarter Slashvertisement? (122 comments)

...Here's an idea, how about we start running Slashdot stories when something from Kickstarter goes from rendering to shipping actual products.

I'd rather hear about promising emerging techs we'll see in the future than press releases when these are out to the mass public; near future projects (consumer or otherwise) is one of the reasons I read Slashdot daily.

I'm sure in the process some items will be vaporware, but I'd expect the majority of these editor approved stories will make it to consumers.

more than 2 years ago
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Why Visual Basic 6 Still Thrives

Tronster Re:VB6 surprising power (406 comments)

I think VB5 also supported COM. (Unsure of this.)
MFC was around long before VB6. We were looking to leverage it at the project's inception but found ATL (with WTL) to provide a lite-weight alternative without the bloated class inheritance. Looking back, as good as ATL was, I don't think we would have survived using it without the WROX books and great samples from CodeProject and similar websites.

The problem is both MFC and ATL are essentially just wrappers to a high procedural, highly struct-passing Win32 API. I prefer them to straight Win32 calling, but they are complex and I'd be surprised if there was a way they could be simplified without losing the flexibility offered.

As for VB6, I believe the EXE's it generated were inherently COM enabled. Each program would support IUnknown and IDispatch. If you wanted a C++ program to talk to it, you needed the IDispatch. Inside of the VB6 world, types were great because they were abstracted, but you are right in that once you marshalled a type out of VB6 into the C++ COM space, it was a bit of a pain to have to work with types like a SAFEARRAYS instead of C array (or STL container.)

So for simple communication, it wasn't too bad. For complex interactions (like the ActiveDocuments we implemented) a crippled object model wasn't required but I would agree that it was a complex setup.

more than 2 years ago
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Why Visual Basic 6 Still Thrives

Tronster VB6 surprising power (406 comments)

VB6 is simple, but there is a surprisingly large amount of power to be tapped from it, if you understand the underlying infrastructure.

Having done some hard core COM programming 10 years ago, for a Computer Based Testing "test driver", our team learned we could spend 2 days to get up a "ActiveDoc" in C++ using ATL, and WTL, or we could do the same thing in VB6 within an hour. Considering how fast it was to implement ActiveDocument and custom COM interfaces, I changed my mind on how weak I perceived VB6 was. (Unfortunately many of the VB trained, customer-based implementors of our interface were not as astute, and even in a VB6 environment didn't understand what they needed to do to create a component that would properly talk to the rest of our system.)

Still, knowing how quickly VB6 would let one get up an interface, I was able to help a room mate of mine create a level editor for our own rolled version of Zelda. It was a little cumbersome to learn how to read individual bytes of the palette based sprite files, but VB6 had all the power there.

All that said, VB6 should die IMHO. After (C# / VB).NET came out, it became a lot easier to make object dynamically talk to each other and perform byte level manipulation.

more than 2 years ago
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Why Apple's Next Revolution Should Be In Your Car

Tronster Hope there is a movement for change (293 comments)

Spot on; I had a rant / post about this back in 2009 (that I had drafted years earlier)... hoping Apple would take over this market:
http://tronsterhartley.blogspot.com/2009/01/starting-to-clean-out-my-many-drafts-of.html

While it doesn't specifically have to be Apple, it seems that none of the established brands really understand what consumers need in a great car stereo. The Alpine model I mention in the above post included: a remote? Required holding a button for a few seconds to active a feature... in a car Has no way to fast scroll mp3 artists or songs, etc....

The only reason I settled on it was because it could connect to my iPod and play MP3s without a skip between the track. This was after calling up another manufacturer about their models of MP3 playing stereos and being told that gapless playback was "impossible". Thank you business man; you know jack about tech, but it doesn't matter because your company doesn't make a car stereo with a killer feature I need. (Although I could change the color of buttons; which was fun for about 1 day and I haven't touched since.)

I hate Apple's lock-in but vote for their products with my money because they really do care about design beyond what is in a device. It makes all the difference in the world when you have a product that "feels" right. Check out the Nest Thermostat, or Dyson Vacuums to see other companies who also match form and functionality.

more than 2 years ago
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Documentation As a Bug-Finding Tool

Tronster Pre / Post coding benefits (188 comments)

I've witnessed writing documentation / seudo lines of code in comments on what a section is suppose to do is a quick way to ensure all pieces come together; frequently able to leave those comments afterwards to describe the following 1-N lines below it.

On the flip side, writing documentation after code can indeed point out bugs if the code is scanned as the documentation is written; it's not unlike a form of Rubber Duck Debugging https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging .

In the end, the only glaring weakness is rewriting the (more minuet) documentation when refactoring the code it's describing. But I'd argue the extra time it takes to rewrite the documentation is, again, Rubber Duck Debugging the refactored code.... a good thing.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Shortcuts To a High Tech House

Tronster Re:Nest & Tankless heater (281 comments)

Keep in mind that "used properly" is code for "has limitations". In particular, you have to use hot water slowly - no rapid filling of bathtubs or buckets, or hot water pressure wash.

Actually the water pressure for the (hot water in the) showers has increased since the tankless system. It wasn't awful with the old one, but one could tell the difference if two people were taking showers at once. Now you cannot tell the difference. I don't interact with my house's water system any differently before; nor was I given instructions to.

The only limitation has been a slightly longer time for the hot water to start coming out.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Shortcuts To a High Tech House

Tronster Re:Nest & Tankless heater (281 comments)

I had mine installed last year (4/13/2011) because my traditional water heater was cracking and had started a leak. The plumber recommended it; said while they are relatively new to (residential) US, they have been used for awhile in Europe. I did do-diligence with Google and had it put in. The brand is: Noritz ( http://www.noritz.com/ )

So 1 year past its running well; if there is a follow up thread 4+ years down the road, I'll let you know how it's handling.

I haven't had a cold water sandwich effect. Only drawback is that it takes about 25 seconds for hot water to start coming out of the faucet (vs 10 seconds with the tank). Advantages:
- Mounted on wall (above washer/dryer) in basement; just gained about 3'x3' space back where my old huge tank was sitting
- I have seen a lower gas/electric bill since installed
- Should I choose; I can take a ridiculously long hot shower (of course always doing this would negate energy savings)

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Shortcuts To a High Tech House

Tronster Nest & Tankless heater (281 comments)

Two items I can recommend that cost a bit upfront but do indeed save money down the road:
- Nest Thermostat ( http://www.nest.com/ )
- Tankless water heater

A good tankless water heater will cost a few K (with installation, etc...) so perhaps just start with the Nest. There is currently a waiting list for them, but I was able to get mine about 3 months after waiting. It looks cool, and if used properly, will continually save you money over the life of the house.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Any Smart Phones Made Under Worker-Friendly Conditions?

Tronster Re:Contraction in OP statement / electronic list? (371 comments)

I did listen to the full retraction, the dust incident is true and confirmed. Michael Daisey did not experience that on his trip. Is that a sign of poor factory conditions? Yes. Did the factories he visit have those issues? From the official reports it seems unlikely, beyond those we'll never know for sure because the bulk of Mr. Daisey's observation were lies; including the new lies NPR brought to light based on his first responses.

It's a shame because it would be great to hear a first hand account from a credible source. There are some good pro and con observations on the overall state of factory conditions (not just Apple factories) and overtime for workers at the end of the full retraction.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Any Smart Phones Made Under Worker-Friendly Conditions?

Tronster Contraction in OP statement / electronic list? (371 comments)

", while his work has been discredited, Michael Daisey wasn't inaccurate in his claims that working conditions are poor in iPhone and iPad factories."

That statement is nonsense.

Michael Daisey was discredited because working conditions were fine for iPhone or iPad factories; none of the horrible things he had reported on were true upon his visit. I've listened to original piece (when it aired) as well as the full retraction. He had to create lies based what he'd heard of previous (outlawed) practices of various Chinese manufactures as well fabricate people, events, and conversations in order to invoke an emotional response. Then he repeatedly, unapologetically used the theater as a scapegoat as to why he could tell people that he was telling a factual account, but in reality, was more lie than occurrence.

That said, the OP does have a good question about sweatshop free phones. I wish there was a list for all goods and services; seems internet searches pull up a lot of hits for clothing and apparel, but not so much for electronics.

more than 2 years ago

Submissions

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Women in Game Development explored on podcast

Tronster Tronster writes  |  about 2 years ago

Tronster writes "For the past half a year, I've been hosting a game development themed podcast with another AAA dev: Brett Doerle. We recently hosted women from various disciplines at three different, Baltimore-based, game studios to talk about their experience of being game developers in a male centric industry.

Some of their stories were surprising, and I wonder if women in any CS/IT related field are subject to similar situations."

Link to Original Source
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Is it possible to fight Verizon and win?

Tronster Tronster writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Tronster (25566) writes "After suffering Comcast's poor customer service, and Cavalier's now less-than-zippy DSL, I've changed my house's ISP to be based off of Verizon's residential FiOS. What I wasn't told, by the many marketing mailers, service tech, or TOS, is that all incoming port 80 traffic is blocked at Verizon; my personal web-site (with 30 hits a day) was blocked. Now I have decide what course of action to take.

Anyone in this situation knows how frustrating it can be, as just confirming with Verizon that they are blocking port 80, upstream from my residence, was an ordeal. It took multiple calls to their IT department, and 2 callbacks from a supervisor. After correcting a level 1 tech and telling me that "no" they do not block port 80, she called back then next day to inform me she was wrong; they do indeed block port 80 on non-business accounts. She could not help me with unblocking port 80, offering 3 options:
  1. Switch to a business account
  2. Setup my web-server on a different port
  3. Do nothing.

Instead I asked to be transferred to the sales department and requested the rep show me where I should have seen Verizon stated they block port 80. Sales was less helpful & even more frustrating. The rep was unable to produce where I would have seen this, and was unable to find Verizon's TOS so we could reference it. The icing on the cake was the promised, within 24 hour, callback from a sales supervisor that never occurred.

From my own digging through the TOS, I can confirm Verizon does not mention blocking port 80 on residential accounts. Clearly Verizon does not understand their own policies. The closest I can find is a mention that residential accounts may not use web-servers, yet their own IT department gave me the solution of running my web-server on an alternative port. Additionally some applications blur the line between client and server; I wonder if prohibiting a "server" is reasonable or if many customers are unknowingly breaking this rule now.

Today I'm reading through docs on fcc.gov about network neutrality to find some leverage before I call their sales unit again.

Has anyone else at Slashdot been down this road with Verizon, or a similar ISP and 'won' through reason?
Can anyone else recommend additional (US legal) sources that may help me, and future American geeks with home web-sites, to combat Verizon and its restrictive residential policies."

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