When fitness tracking reveal bases

The other day I stumbled up on a thread in my Twitter feed, where people have located army bases based on fitness tracking heat maps released by Strava. Here’s an example of what the data looks like: Drone base in Djibouti

Drone base in Djibouti
Soldiers running around the perimeter or just a simple patrol?


Nice drones!

Continue Reading “When fitness tracking reveal bases”

Theme Update

Every now and then I decide to update my blog’s theme. It’s not that there was anything really wrong with the old theme, but I just like the change from time to time.

I think it’s the first time however that the blog is running a bright/white theme instead of the dark one. While I do like dark themes, the ones I’ve used in the past always made it feel like the theme itself is blending too much with the content. Maybe increasing the font color and adjusting some styling would have helped, but in some strange way, brighter themes also seem a bit more professional or more mature. I’m not trying to make this blog anything special, I just want to try something new.

Continue Reading “Theme Update”

Thoughts: Social Media Customers

This is the first post of a new “category”. Every now and then I find myself thinking about some topic I find interesting. Usually I just tweet about it, but the space there is always limited, so for the future, when I have to say more about a topic, you’ll find a blog post here.

Nowadays there are many people who make a living with YouTube or other social media activities. In a sense these content creators “crowdfund” their income, meaning that the more followers, subscribers, viewers, etc. they have, the more value they can either extract directly from said audience or get paid by the platform given the value they have created.

Social Media

One problem that can be seen on all of these social media platforms is that the newest post, video, etc. isn’t being distributed to every reader, subscriber, follower, etc. Personally, I have often heard from YouTubers, that their newest video didn’t reach all of their subscribers, which in turn generated less views and inadvertently means less money for them. It can quite imagine the pain, because it seems to happen unpredictably and the only way to notice it, is when either the view counter doesn’t go as far up as expected or when subscribers tell them, that it didn’t show up for them.

On the other hand, there exist platforms, which don’t hide their pickiness in distribution as much. The most prominent example would be Facebook. Facebook tells you explicitly, to how many people your posts will be distributed to and with a nice “Pay2Win mechanic” lets you pay Facebook, so your posts will be seen by more people.

When I see people complain about Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. not acting the way they except it to, they often seem to forget or sometimes don’t even realize that the followers, subscribes, fans, etc. are customers of the social platform first and only secondarily part of the content creator’s following. If something generates more money for the social media platform, for example promoting a trending video, then it doesn’t matter whether it will hurt your not so very important video.

Point being, your followers and subscribers only become truly your customers, once you get them to sign up for your system. Be it a simple mailing list or an account on your site – the former is easier than the latter. For mailing lists there are tons and tons of easy to use tools and services on the web. Most are free up to a certain point and many have addons and extensions that allow you, to easily integrate them into your website.

Of course I don’t mean that you can’t reach people over social media platforms, I merely think it’s important to know and not get angry about it, when social media platforms cater to their own business before thinking about your business.

Convert EPS to SVG – Cisco Icons for yEd

I wasted like one or two hours on this and thought, I’d make a quick post, so others don’t have to waste their time in the future.

Convert EPS to SVG

If you just want to convert some EPS files to an SVG file, all you need is Inkscape and then use the following command to do the magic:

inkscape input-file.eps --export-plain-svg=output-file.svg

If you have a bunch of these files you can use the following command on Windows to convert them in one batch:

for %%f in (*.eps) do inkscape "%%f" --export-plain-svg="%%f.svg"

Of course Inkscape supports a lot more formats with a lot more options, just use the help flag to get the full list.

Cisco Icons for yEd

I originally ran into the problem, because I wanted to use the “standard” Cisco icons for a network diagram in yEd, an awesome and free graph editor. While googling I ran into this post which provides a set of Cisco icons for yEd, but the huge color difference between the icons just wasn’t acceptable (light blue vs “Cisco” blue). So I thought to create my own set and found myself converting the EPS from Cisco’s official Network Topology Icons page. I then converted them as described above, imported them into yEd and exported the full set for you to enjoy. There’s still some color difference, but less extreme. Since a lot of the icons are rather useless – or do you use some space router at home? – I’ve selected a few of the icons which seemed most useful to me and created a separate package. Note: The converted SVG files ares included.

Cisco Icons SVG + GraphML [394 KiB]
Cisco Icons (Selected) SVG + GraphML [41.7 KiB]

See this article on how to import the icons into yEd.

Guest Post: The origin of Daeva Theory Studios

Many of you will know Artur Moreira, who’s a Protuguese game developer and also goes by the nickname Grimshaw on the SFML forum and other places. He recently released his first game through is newly founded indie company Daeva Theory Studios (former www.daevatheory.com) and since he’s a good friend of mine, I thought it would be nice to hear his story on the development process. Without further ado here goes the first guest post on this blog:

Hello! My name is Artur Moreira. I am the founder of Daeva Theory Studios, a startup games company which is already established with a published game, but is still trying to find its place in the world.

Our first game, Terra: Rise of Mankind, was an attempt to explore a mix of genres, in a rather experimental perspective of the world. This is a 2D game where you take control of a planet, being able to build structures, space ships and use them to combat in space battles! The game is quite unique, so it was very hard to get it right, even though I think it has its flaws. It feels like an RPG in some ways because you need to level up by obtaining experience, which unlocks new things to make you stronger or richer. The space ships also evolve as they gain experience, becoming stronger. However, I think the game feels even more like a real time strategy game, because of the way you move your ships and fight the battles.

Android app on Google Play

In sum, this was a vision of a game I had and started improving on it over time. Had I not been so naïve in the beginning, it would have probably turned out a way better game. There was a bad planning in the start, some bad designs which eventually had to be removed and replaced and overall productivity faults along the road. I guess this is normal for someone still beginning, creating his first commercial game, so I just learned my lessons and kept going in the direction of better games. Either way, I thought someone else could benefit from knowing on what I failed and what I’d do differently.

Now that we published our first game and can now be called an independent games company, I wanted to share our experience up until this point, as well as the conclusions we made through development. It would be great if any of my tips could favor you and help your life in some way.

And here goes the first tip:

Continue Reading “Guest Post: The origin of Daeva Theory Studios”

SFML News – Week 38-40 (2013)

And I’m back with my weekly based SFML News! Given that it’s just a bit more than two weeks, there thankfully isn’t as much content as for my last entry, but it’s also not like, nothing had been going on.

Projects

Dead or Run

seobyeongky has created a small network racing game and by racing I mean running, not driving cars. It looks interesting and the sound effects are taken from various places, thus it’s kind of fun if you recognize them. I’m not sure if there’s a hidden executable somewhere, but I couldn’t see one on the forum. You can however still enjoy the video below or if you understand Korean, you could also take a look at the source code.

Continue Reading “SFML News – Week 38-40 (2013)”

SFML News – Week 29-30 (2013)

So I couldn’t cover all the projects from last week, thus I’ll mention a few old ones as well.

Projects

Cloud Wars

We’ve seen the first screenshots of Cloud Wars, a space tactical game in the spirit of Battleships Forever, but with significant RPG elements, over a year ago and if there would’ve been an update, I guess everyone would’ve thought the project is dead, but it’s quite the contrary. There seems to have been a lot of changes, even changing the programming language for C++ to C# but still using SFML.

I hope we’re going to see some binaries in the near future, since the game looks quite interesting.

Continue Reading “SFML News – Week 29-30 (2013)”

SFML News – Week …-29 (2013)

Although I’ve once wanted to make weekly updates on SFML News, the amount of content go more and more, while my time got less and less, thus I eventually stopped. Since there have been many new posts on various projects in the last few days, I decided to make another quick update and present some text and images and because there is so much nice stuff, I’m not going to limit myself on a fixed date in the past. Unfortunately I can’t write about every single project, otherwise this blog post would never end!

Projects

Academic project: Simulation of Scorpion & Mice

This project was presented on the forum for the first time on the 7th if July, it’s an academic project from the Swiss university EPFL and created by the Mac OS X guy behind SFML, namely Marco Antognini aka Hiura. Now the aim of the project was to simulate full life cycles of mice as the prey and scorpions as the predators. The hard part of the project seem to be lying with programming the neural network, rather than getting something displayed with SFML, but in any case it’s quite nice to see SFML being used in notable universities and projects. With this project the use SFML wasn’t just temporarily and won’t stop now, but Hiura says that they’ll be using their SFML based setup in the future, so the next class might be actually learning SFML!

Postmortem – One must die

Postmortem has been first shown over a month on the SFML forum, but it went into Closed Beta just recently and now even tries to get the green light on Greenlight – although I’m still wondering how they’re going to get a free game on Steam…
Here’s a quick description from their website:

Postmortem is a FREE Indie narrative-exploratory game that will stress your moral compass this August 15th! Think The Walking Dead meets Home and The Last Express, with a dash of To The Moon – a perfect mix of exploration, conversation, meaningful choices, discovering clues and some puzzles.
You are an agent of Death sent to take ONE life from a cast of influential and ambitious characters at a charity Gala, in a rich and complex setting of industrial-revolution, conflict-torn country.

They are of course running their own website and a nice dev blog. It’s nice to see, that they’ve already gotten an article on US Gamer. Personally I think it’s an intriguing idea and definitely worth checking out!

Colonies – A Retro Sandbox Survival MMO

Not a new game presentation either, but they’ve now gone into Closed Alpha phase and since it looks really well polish, I just had to include it here. As the title suggest this is going to be a sandbox game with RPG elements and it should be an MMO or at least O(nline) as well. You should be able to settle, create a village, and defend your friends from the horrible creatures who lurk in the forests. You can change the landscape, farm, or hunt in order to survive the conditions, etc. Whenever the word “MMO” drops people get suspicions, since it’s hard to get done right and needs a lot of skill and time, but feel free to follow Jungletoe’s dev blog and don’t forget to stop by their own community.

Basis: Bone and Sprite Integration System

Some of you might have noticed the Spine project from a few month back, which also has support for SFML and I’ve even helped on Kickstarter. While Spine costs you some money Basis doesn’t cost you anything. Both mentioned applications are for 2D animations of skeletal and sprite creation. Although the tool is free the development still needs to be financed, thus they’ve started a Kickstarter project as well and they could really use some help! A download can also be found on the Kickstarter page.

Council of Torment – 2D dungeon crawler with a rich storyline

Although Council of Torment is still in rather early development it still deserves its place here.

Council of Torment is a top-down 2D dungeon crawler inspired by Ultima IV, with a very rich storyline, gameplay elements that’s been under development for 10 months.

From the description on the forum it seems that a big portion of the development will also go into the story. There’s not much more to talk about for now, but it’s certainly a project to keep an eye on.

Rock, paper, scissor.

I think, I don’t have to explain how this game works or I at least hope everyone knows “Rock, Paper, Scissor”! Although there still seems to be some animation issue, it works fine and can be interesting to try and figure out, if it’s based on some pattern or simply randomly generated. Not only can you download the game itself, but if you want, you can also look at its source code.

Metanact – Filesystem spaceshooter

While nobody has ever heard of Schnommus aka Seb, he seems to have been reading the forum for quite a while now. Judging from his progress on Metanact so far, he also seems to know quite a bit on programming. Metanact’s goal is to explore and conquer your own computer’s file system in a 2D environment. So while playing, the game will go through your file system and pick out various file names and represent them as enemy. While this game reminds me of other “file system” games, which would actually delete the files you’re shooting (e.g. Lose/Lose), Metanact is not such a game. It does not do any harm to your file system. You can find out more about Metanact on their website or even help Seb getting a bit more money together for some more nice content on indiegogo.

2D Platformer using SFML and Box2D

It always amazes me how some is able to create such a rather nice game as their first project. I still haven’t managed to get my own little platformer running (most because I end up doing unnecessary stuff) and others just go ahead and get it done in their first project. Though it seems, he’s using the Public Domain tile-set, I’ve found yesterday as well – visuals are something that can blur the actual vision between good and bad.

GoPlanets

One of my favorite game in the current list is GoPlanets. The idea is rather simple but much fun! You’re red and can send out a certain amount of ships to other planets to take them over. The numbers on the planets display how many ships you can send and based on this number a given percentage will be taken away when sending out ships. The number increase over time automatically, so the longer you wait, the more ships you get, but keep in mind that the computer will try to win everything in the meantime as well. Although the current AI isn’t really challenging it’s still very fun to play. I really hope to see some further development on this project!

Project Blastorium: a Bomberman-esque game

I don’t think anyone will really remember my attempts on a bomberman clone for one of the SCC. I got some result, but it was very messy and I think I’ve never got it really finished after I’ve missed the deadline. Project Blastorium on the other hand is very well polished and introduces some different weapons to the playground, which seems rather interesting. You can follow the progress on the game on the dev blog or just in the forum.

Black and White and Colors

Molyjam 2013 a game jam, where you have 48h to start from scratch to the finished product. They seem to have been three people involved in this project and their final product after only 48h is just mind blowing. It’s simple, but very well polished and the game idea is very good. It would be totally awesome, if they’d go and add some more content, i.e. new levels, since you’ll get to the last level in just a few minutes. You can get the Windows binary from the Molyjam site or read some more information on the forum.

Discussions

SFML Game Jam

This discussion just popped up on the forum, thus it’s still very hot and it seems many people are tuning in on the idea – even Laurent would be excited to see something like this.
The goal would be to have a contest going for a specific amount of time (24/48/72h) to start and finish a game using SFML. How, when, where and why is what the discussion is all about, so don’t forget to give your own voice!

Clipboard and Open with Default Application feature for SFML

Originated form the GLFW 3 thread FRex went ahead and proposed the two features. The discussion is still open and if you really want this feature, you should definitely go and write there why you’d like to see this. Personally I think this could be nice, but since it should be relatively easy to implement on my own, it’s not something that should get on a high priority list.

Changes on SFML

There have been so many commits and issue discussions, that I’ve totally lost track. You can however always go and look at the commit history yourself!

SFML News – Week 12-13 (2013)

Projects

Updates on the Nightly Builds

My SFML Nightly Builds were quite a few commits behind last week, mainly because I wanted to keep the matching SFML version for Thor and thought I could get the automated building system to work with Thor. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to do so in time and thus I only update the latest version section and left the previous section with the older version. Now that GCC 4.8 got released this week, I’m thinking about providing binaries for yet another compiler, but I’m not sure which one I should use. What do you guys think?

Kroniax 5.2, Preview & Source Code

AlexAUT is not resting and keeps polishing his game Kronaix. We’re not at version 5.2, which brought a working Challenge Mode with online highscore and fixed different bugs. He also moved the updates to Indie DB and thus might get some more people to play Korniax.

I’ve posted the last weeks LP not only here, but also on the forum thread and AlexAUT asked me, if he could use my LP as a Preview. I gave him of course the permission, but also offered to create a ‘stand-alone’ preview, which he was even more excited about.

Besides the new official release and the preview, AlexAUT finally published the source to GitHub and with 5 pull requests, he already got some contributions from Haze, iostream and me. Haze made sure, that the source code will compile on Linux, iostream made a conforming Markdown ReadMe and I’ve mainly cleaned up the file naming and structure and added a CMake build system. Feel free to check it out and contribute to it.

Kroniax on GitHub

Open Hexagon’s Linux Port Released

Vee has been working hard on Open Hexagon last two week, but since he’s not that experienced with Linux, he has been deploying Open Hexagon for Windows only. Luckily he got flibitijibibo to continue his older ports. Thus releasing Open Hexagon 1.84 for Linux.

But with help from my side and even more from Aster’s side, Open Hexagon now uses CMake to build and thus is way easier to deploy on Windows and Linux and we might even see a Mac version, if anyone is willing to test it and compile it for Mac. With those new changes the time was right for version 1.9, which adds a new level pack and a few other changes and fixes, see the full ReadMe for more information.

Thor’s Particle System in Action

Tank has posted an example video on a small game he’s been working on, to get back at C++ again, after a longer time doing web development-only for the company he’s working for. It looks quite nice and demonstrates how easy it is to get a good effect with particles. If you’re looking for easy way to start with particle effects, you might want to checkout Thor, which of course offers many other handy things.

Mini Crown

kaB00M who has been or still is working on a Mana fan game called Seiken Densetsu, posted his newest creation Mini Crown. It seems to be based on Vanillaware’s Dragon’s Crown upcoming RPG/Beat’em up game and is available for Windows. The game is still work in progress, but it’s still nice to see that people are working on projects with SFML.

Platform – The simple platformer game

The author of yet another platformer called Platform is santiaboy. He has been on the forum only since the beginning of this year, but has now already released his first SFML game. The controls are quite fluid and from the technical part it seems well done, but one of course still notices that it’s a very rough version and needs some more polishing.

Personally I’m quite impressed how far he got his platformer, I always failed at the basic concepts or the collision detection, got frustrated and left my approaches to a simple platformer lying around on my hard disk.

 

Discussions

Will SFML 2.0 ever see the daylight?

Believe it or not, but the people who’ve been with SFML for quite some time, are waiting on the release of SFML 2.0 already for around three years. I’ve started with a bit of SFML 1.6, but since the ATI bug wouldn’t let me properly execute my applications and since SFML 2.0 already came with a few more bug fixes I switched over rather quickly. The SFML 2.0 back then, wasn’t anything like the SFML 2.0 we have today. We were still using CamelCase for the functions and nobody had ever heard of sf::RenderTexture, sf::Vertex or a few other classes. The API was way more similar to SFML 1.6, what made the switch easier. The big graphics API change was introduce around 1.5 years ago, which was a good day and basically turned SFML into what it is today. The opinions of the community got split when changing the function names from CamelCase to camelCase. Some hated it, some loved it and others found it just ridiculous to even do such a change. Then nearly 1 year ago, we got a release candidate, which made everyone believe that a release would follow within the next few weeks, but as we all know, this hasn’t happened.
So getting back to the title question, will we ever see a SFML 2.0 release? The answer is yes and looking at the milestones on GitHub, we can only see a one open issue for 2.0, where Laurent stated that the tutorials are complete and only parts of the website need to get updated even gave, he even gave a rough ETA, “next month” – you better keep your word Laurent!

New SFML Logo

Unfortunately nobody has commented here on the blog about the last logos, but the discussion on the forum keeps constantly going. Haikarainen posted a new logo, implementing some suggestions by others. The font style looks really well, but personally I don’t see any reason to use an animal for a logo. The most interesting part is though, that Laurent has kind of pointed out the most fitting and we just might see a basic pentagon has SFML’s new logo. Obviously not everyone agrees and thus Nexus has introduce an idea with arrows and made an example. But one should also not forget the two contributions of jabza. Let me know in the comments what you think about the logos.

Changes on SFML

Unfortunately there have been no changes to SFML this week.

SFML News – Week 11 (2013)

Although I probably shouldn’t start again with something new and rather try to get more of those computer science articles ready, I still had this funny idea of releasing ‘news’ articles on what has been happening in the SFML community. I’ll try to release weekly articles, but I don’t promise anything and I don’t even know how much I’ll write for each article.

Projects

Kroniax

As promised by AlexAUT, Kroniax 0.4 got published last Sunday and it adds a complete redesign of the GUI and a few additional levels. Although he mentioned that it would take longer before the next version, he managed to get 0.51 (download page) out yesterday.

But who’s AlexAUT and what’s Kroniax? AlexAUT joined the SFML community in October last year and has been most likely busy ever since. Less than a month ago he released his probably first bigger game with SFML. It’s some kind of a side-scroller, where you have to maneuver a white triangle, representing a ship, through a maze of blocks. To make things more interesting the velocity of the triangle as well as the strength of gravity varies from level to level or can change within each level. Next to the described Arcade mode, the latest version 0.51 features now another mode called Speedchallenge, where you can change the velocity on your own, while you still have to beat the level. Since it is called ‘challenge’, AlexAUT added an online highscore, so you’ll get some aim to fight for.

Kroniax is extremely addictive and makes a lot of fun. Since I had so much fun with it, I’ve even made quick Let’s Play:

Open Hexagon

Legendary Vee has done it again and released not only one new version of Open Hexagon but five; starting with 1.8 and ending with 1.84 (download page). The most noticeable change are the online highscores. Everyone who’s playing with the official version in ‘official mode’, will automatically submit their scores to a server and get their current position and the top 8 places. But that’s not the only new thing; you now get a full menu for various options and a nice pseudo 3D effect. As always you can find the full changelog in Vee’s detailed ReadMe. The minor updates were mostly bug fixes, as well as security and performances updates.

I actually wanted to make another video on Open Hexagon, but my microphone on the headset died and I don’t have a replacement yet. The built-in mic of my notebook is not really useable for such things, but you can still checkout one of my older videos on Open Hexagon:

NEAT Visualizer

The NEAT Visualizer is a project, which visualizes an implementation of the Neuro-Evolution of Augmenting Topologies (short NEAT) algorithm. The NEAT algorithm evolves neuronal network structures and weights them simultaneously. Such a network is capable of learning some simple tasks, which the visualizer should make prettier for the eye. The used algorithm doesn’t have anything to do with SFML, since it’s a generic, but the visualization uses SFML underneath. Based on NEAT lolz123 has also written a small but fun game as Ludum Dare.

lolz123 released a new video and a new version of the NEAT visualizer this week. You can look at the video here:

Discussions

New SFML Logo

Nearly two years ago Laurent opened the discussion on the forum for a new logo. Back then we already assumed SFML 2.0 would get released anytime now, but well we are still waiting, more on that in another post though. After the thread died out for a while it’s back again and every week we get a few new suggestions. The ones of this week were in my opinion quite strange and not very well suited as logo. On two of them it’s nearly impossible to see the letters ‘SFML’, especially if you don’t know already that they should be there. The other one is textured which is not useable at all for a logo. But maybe I’m not artsy enough to understand this, so I’ll let you make your own opinions:

Will SFML support OpenGL ES sooner than expected?

OpenGL ES is as specification for a platform and language independed 3D programming. It’s mainly aims embedded systems (thus the ES) such as Raspberry Pi or devices that run Android or iOS.
If SFML were to be ported over to OpenGL ES, it could potentially open the world to a whole new set of platforms and thus new games and applications with SMFL. In general Laurent wants to get SFML to OpenGL ES, but in the past this was not due for anytime soon. What could then change his mind? Well slotdev started a discussion on the forum about having a DirectX backend for SFML, which would involve even a bigger change to SFML, but luckily some guys have created ANGLE, which basically translate OpenGL to DirectX calls and thus enables one to write OpenGL applications for platforms which support only DirectX. The downside to this is though, that ANGLE implements an OpenGL ES specification. Since slotdev and a few more people are commercially working on games for casino machines, Laurent stated that he’d be looking into getting OpenGL ES support sooner than plant, if they require it anytime soon. The discussion was then moved to private chats and we’re kind of left in the dark what they decided on.

What do you guys think about elevating the priorities on OpenGL ES? Should Laurent tackle other more important issues first before rewriting huge junks of SFML’s code? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Source code changes

Personally I feel like we got a much more involved community in the past few weeks, but I’m not sure whether this is just because I’m looking more closely at the commits and what’s going on, or if it’s really because more people are submitting pull requests and Laurent actually accepts them. It also kind of feels like, Laurent got a bit more open about contributions after the forum thread with the title: “More Commuity-driven Development”

  • We received a fix from one guy, who had problems with some events on Arch Linux with Awesome WM. – 560b741
  • As noticed by our great Nexus in a forum post, the explicit for the sf::Text constructor wasn’t needed anymore. – 5c46daa

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my news post and actually got some news out of this. If you feel, that I’ve missed some parts or just got any kind of feedback, please leave a comment down below or contact me by means of PM, Mail, Twitter, IRC, etc. I’d really to hear some opinions.