Wait, e-books?

Mon 25 November 2013 in Mixed. Tags: Computer, Modelling, Programming, Videogames, Vlambeer, Travel. By mrwonko.

As is evident bys the last post I just reviewed an e-book. Well, it's also available on paper, but my review copy was an e-book. So, did I start reading books on my computer's screen? You might think so, after all I already use it to read long articles and way too much reddit (especially lately), but no, I'm not going to read entire books on it. Actually, I got a tablet.

Let's go back in time a bit. It's the end of August and I hear of a local multiplayer picnic on October 19th in Utrecht, Netherlands. (In a local multiplayer picnic people bring their local multiplayer games and play them together/against each other.) I've had the pleasure of being part of one at A MAZE Indie Connect back in April and it was a lot of fun. (That's where I learned of Samurai Gunn and Super Pole Riders.) So I decide that I should totally go. It's in the lecture period but hey, it's a weekend, two days are plenty: One day for the picnic and one day to check out Utrecht.

Except the picnic isn't until the evening. First, there's a 6h game jam whose results are to be played. I guess I need a computer for that, eh? But since I never really needed a laptop I don't have one... But wait, what about these new tablet things? I could probably use one for uni, browsing and typing on the phone is pretty awkward. And they support external keyboards and even gamepads and some even have hdmi output, so it should be possible to create and play games on them. Hey, that's basically an Ouya you can code on!

So I went ahead and got a tablet. Most people told me to just get a Nexus 7, but I didn't for 3 reasons:

  1. It has no HDMI output
  2. It has no microSD slot
  3. It's only 7" and I'd much prefer 10"

So I went for a cheap Chinese one instead and got the Ainol Novo 9. It has miniHDMI, microSD, USB, a separate port for charging (which is nice if you want to connect USB devices while charging it) and a glorious 2048*1536 9.7" display. The display's downside is that it consumes a lot of power. And the touch screen reacts pretty slowly, much like the one in my Xperia U. Performance in general is somewhat weak, switching apps takes longer than I'd like and some games stutter horribly, though the latter may just be due to bad coding.

(By the way, I'd much rather have an x86 tablet, but money.)

Unsurprisingly, I didn't finish the app in time. It would've probably been possible but not for me. I did enough R&D to know that everything I needed was possible but never got much further. But coding on a tablet probably would've felt horrible anyway, even with a keyboard. Or that's what I tell myself anyway.

À propos feeling horrible: I chose to travel to Utrecht by sleep train. The idea: get in the train on Friday/Sunday evening, sleep, arrive at Saturday/Monday morning. Worked out well, except for the sleep part. It was loud and uncomfortable so I barely slept, especially on the way back.

I also got to experience the typical delays of the Deutsche Bahn: On the travel there I had to wait an additional 30 minutes for the train to arrive in the first place, and it somehow managed to accumulate a delay of 2h. It was then announced that we'd simply skip the Ruhr area completely and the train arrived in Utrecht on schedule, albeit without anybody who would've gotten onto the train in or near Cologne. The journey back also took 30 minutes longer than it was supposed to.

Utrecht itself on the other hand was very pleasant. I quickly found the Dutch Game Garden where the jam/picnic took place and got a lent laptop. A team then asked me to join them and I ended up modelling. Not what I do best, but then again we were using Unity so I couldn't have coded anyway given the limited time and my lack of Unity experience.

An aside: I have an irrational dislike for Unity which may be based on the fact that it looks more like a level design tool at first glance. So I never quite got into it. I'm somewhat reluctant to use engines in general. I recently read this:

Give a man a game engine and he delivers a game. Teach a man to make a game engine and he never delivers anything.

~ @sandbaydev

There's truth in it and I'm afraid I'm past the point of return. I want to do everything myself instead of using a full engine. That's way more interesting. It's also way more work.

But thankfully I was not in charge of programming so we did actually finish the game in time. We then proceeded to play each other's games. JW (half of Vlambeer and one of the organizers of the event) created a local multiplayer version of Luftrausers mixed with Super Smash Brothers ("Luftbrothers", I think) and Tomasz Kaye brought his Flock Lords prototype. (Frankly the only thing I can find about it on the Internet is this image.) Samurai Gunn was also playable, it's still as fun as ever, and then there were all the other games created during the jam.

So Saturday was satisfying and I spent Sunday exploring Utrecht - it's a nice city with an impressive cathedral. I found out that unlike in Germany shops in the Netherlands are open on Sundays and spontaneously bought a couple of blurays, including Drive since Hotline Miami's creators are quite fond of it. I've yet to watch it though so I can't give you my impressions yet. Hmm, I should probably do posts on movies I've watched...

So that was my trip to Utrecht. What remains is the tablet. I didn't actually use it to program games, so what do I use it for? Well, there's the browsing at uni. I'm actually there right now, writing this on my tablet with an external keyboard between lectures. Also e-books. I haven't started reading any yet - I still have a couple of old-fashioned paper books that need reading first and I'm not really making progress on those either - but I already downloaded a bunch of books from the public domain. The one thing I actually take the time to read are comics. Incidentally that's where the big high resolution display shines.

Another thing I plan to do but haven't gotten around to is code a tabletop rpg app. Having the character sheets digitally would make it easier for the gamemaster to discreetly check somebody's stats and simplifies changes. Add to that easy drawing of maps, then moving characters around in there. It could also be used for playing over the Internet, which would be convenient since one of my friends has moved and we rarely see each other. I'll hopefully give this a shot in QtQuick some day.

And that's the story of how I got a tablet and what I do with it.

So long,



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