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Current Progress on ‘The Game’

A lot has happened since my last post here:

  • I’ve written a crude SQLite wrapper in Objective C (separate project). And have begun work on a little program that will read words out of a text file and add them to a table in an SQLite database. The column containing the word will be indexed so hopefully there will be a quick lookup!
  • I’ve managed to download a text file that is basically a list of English words (not a dictionary since there are no definitions).
  • I’ve started going through this file removing words that are not applicable (based on the game’s rules). This is going to take awhile. There are a lot of words in this list!
  • I am planning on having another column in the table where the word will appear with all its letters in alphabetical order. This column will be indexed too. This is all part of a crazy idea I have as part of an algorithm for the computer to quickly pick words to form based on the letters it currently has… This is for when the user is playing the computer or the computer is playing itself … Attract Mode.
  • I’m still not done with this little program to build my SQLite database table.
  • Back to work I’ve done on the main Objective C game code…
  • The main game menu is up and running (though at this point only the Create Game button is working).
  • Ive got a general purpose game menu button selection method which purpose is to play a button select animation, which, when done running, will then call the proper method to run based on whichever button was selected. It looks a little like the Silkroad Online game menu button. “Part” of the SpriteKit animation is playing a button “click” sound. The sound file being played right now is just a placeholder sound until I can create/get the final sound file.
  • I’ve now gotten an Apple TV version of the project working! Yay! The projects are different, but both iOS and Apple TV projects are pointing to the same source code.
  • I’ve figured out how to run my app in Xcode on my actual Apple TV box that is in the same room! The room where my home office is, is also my wife and I’s den.
  • There is specific code that is called only when running on  Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone.
  • But there is a lot of common code that is run by every platform.
  • Speaking of Apple TV specific code, I was able to get game controller code working for it (at least for the Siri Remote). So, for now, I can use the Siri Remote to navigate through the game menu and select an option.
  • I’ve added to the existing data structures for tile spots and buttons information for how to handle which element should be navigated to based on how the user uses their game pad on their Siri Remote. I’ve only been able to test it with the menu buttons so far and it seems to work pretty good.
  • There is a SpriteKit animation associated with changing the highlighted menu button. Part of it plays a sound file (think of the sound playing as you move for movie poster to movie poster in Apple’s Movie app). The sound right now is just a placeholder sound as well.
  • I would like the animation above to include the tilting of the highlighted item like the Apple Movie and TV apps and the Netflix app does. I plan on using the SKAction they have now to do a “warp” of the sprite. We’ll see how that goes.
  • I’ve added code to create, display, and run a game timer. The player will get 3 minutes for their turn.
  • This game is a multi-player game. And hence it needs functionality coded in to provide that functionality. At this point, I am planning on using Apple’s GameKit to implement these features. Specifically, the features that were mentioned in the talk “What’s New in Game Center” that Megan Gardner gave at the WWDC 2016. Specifically the features around the usage of the new GKGameSession class. You can watch the video of this presentation here. I watched this video a couple months back during the process of doing some initial investigation on what I would need to do to get this game to be a multi-player game. And I found it’s content exciting. What she talked about seemed to be able to do everything that I wanted without me having to compromise anything that I wanted in the game functionality!

Current Problems and Road-Blocks:

  • Sound on Apple TV version of app going away.
    • Initially, this worked fine. But then it suddenly stopped working.
    • When I’d leave the app and go into another app, their sound effects still worked just fine.
    • I had not turned the volume down on my Apple TV.
    • I checked the code just to make sure that I had not somehow removed the code that played the sound effect. I had not.
    • When running the iPad version of the game, it still plays the sound effect (shared code).
    • This problem is not at the top of my list, but it is annoying and it will need to be figured out eventually.
  • The Big Problem: Finding GameKit documentation including code examples (especially using the GKGameSession class).
    • This problem is causing a lot of anxiety and frustration for me. I can imagine that its doing/done the same for other iOS/macOS/tvOS developers out there too. I (like them) would rather be solving problems in my game itself, not having to be an API forensic anthropologist untangling a confusing web of sparse clues! And I’m really reluctant to use one of my Apple Developer support tickets for something like this which (in my opinion) is really Apple’s fault.
    • Maybe I’m blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other, but Apple does not provide any on-line code examples for GameKit/Game Center. None. If its out there, its hidden really good!
    • The API’s syntax documentation is very sparse.
    • If you look up a class such as GKGameSession, in addition to the sparse documentation, and no examples, it says it Deprecated! Really??
    • Okay, they do mention on the page that it was deprecated for iOS 10.0, macOS 10.12, and tvOS 10.0. iOS 10.0 came out on September 13, 2016 (just found that out now). If this is true, this means that all these cool, new, and sexy features did not even last 6 months. I don’t know, that is hard for me to believe.
    • When I saw this I thought “well, there has to be a presentation in 2017 or 2018 (this year) where they mention the new changes and which classes have been deprecated.” There were none. In fact there were no new presentations on Game Center/Kit since 2016.
    • Okay, it seems that Apple gave GKGameSession the boot. If it did, it was real quiet-like. The 2016 presentation that that Megan Gardner gave mentioned at least one class that was being deprecated and how they were taking away the Game Center app. So, it would make sense that if as of September 13, 2016, that the GKGameSession class was deprecated, that at least there would be a presentation during WWDC 2017 covering any changes… and why those changes were made… Or perhaps at least a web page explaining all this?
    • I’ve seen in various spots on the web people asking questions about GKGameSession. Rarely getting any answers. And certainly none from Apple (even on their developer forum).
    • I can’t find any how-to tutorial info on the web on the subject. Lots of info on stuff like SpriteKit though.
    • No books covering the subject (at least not recently covered).
    • No courses in Lynda.com or Udemy.
    • I did find some stuff of interest out on Github that I am looking into. But it is definitely not something a dev could easily figure out how to piece it all together. What interests me is where did they get some of the pieces of code to help them fit it together? Somewhere that I don’t know about at least!
    • To be honest, I did find some code examples and a tutorial on using GameKit on raywenderlich.com. But this tutorial was created in 2014. I want to use the newer features of 2016.
    • Well, I have several lines of inquiry for this problem. Mainly involving an attempt to contact certain people in hopes that they can connect me with folks who DO know the answers to these questions. Wish me luck!

Well, I went on a lot longer than I expected in this post! If you know where I can find the information I’m looking for, any help would be greatly appreciated.

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