Are you kidding me?

Where Gamecraft has been recently.

As regular readers will have noticed, this blog has spent a little time offline, and even more time without new content, although even occasional browsers will see that it now has an exciting new look.

In the past two months, we have had crashes of our most important Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows systems (in that order).  These were significant setbacks in and of themselves, but when a microISV is producing at full speed, and roadblocks are encountered, something has to give.  In this case, this Gamecraft blog was one of the casualties.

The initial Mac OS X issue was a terminal hardware failure of the primary development system, but it was compounded into a major problem by Apple’s ill-advised deprecation policy, since no new replacement hardware would run the version of Xcode and build tools we use to support all of our Mac customers.  (Say what you want about Microsoft, but they treat developers way better than Apple.)  We finally resolved the development issues by obtaining and installing old server versions of OS X in Parallels, but we are still screwed out of being able to properly test under Lion, Snow Leopard, or Leopard without buying old used equipment.  [insert appropriate expletives here]

The Linux (Ubuntu) issue was a bootstrap failure on our web server caused by a power outage during a major upgrade (and assisted by the new procedure of displaying update text and requiring user input to continue, without which the window of “opportunity” would have been much smaller).  Once it became clear that there was not going to be any reasonable way to recover/continue, it was not too bad rebuilding the system, and a little bit (including the entire database for this site) survived intact without requiring restoration.  Unfortunately, the server configuration (i.e., the hard part) was not fully recoverable, so that took some time to get working (and is still not completely to my liking).

The Windows issue stemmed from a (poorly timed) decision to upgrade my primarily development system to Windows 7 prior to public release of Windows 8 (a.k.a., Windows Ugh).  I almost always do clean installations, rather than upgrades, for my Windows systems, but the above issues suggested to me that I should do a 32-bit upgrade to minimize the disruption.  What I did not know is that in the interest of “security”, Win7 no longer supports the domain controller we have been using internally for many years, so the upgrade could not sign in, so it could/would not access the user information for my account, so the Start menu, registry, and other user-specific settings were all gone.  Result: All of the program files were installed, but the products ranged from working if manually launched to completely unusable.

After all of this, as a side note, everybody in the office experienced a tenacious respiratory illness that interfered with productivity as well.  (I would draw a parallel, except that only in the physical world was a virus involved.)

So, at present, all of our systems are back in working order.  We used the opportunity to improve our Mac OS X development process, including the introduction of code signing to support Gatekeeper, and the builds are running on a faster machine (which almost counterbalances the slower virtualized system).  Likewise, we ended up maxing out the Windows system memory and installing Windows 7 (64-bit) from scratch, giving better performance all around (except for the few old 16-bit tools I still used, which no longer run).  For the web, we decided to build a better blog (first) and then devote appropriate attention to our other sites, which, frankly, had been mostly neglected.

In the meantime, of course, we have remained steadily engaged in development, producing several new game versions and upgrades, as well as progress on a few new products, so expect a number of announcements (many after the fact) soon.

In the future, we will be utilizing the new and newly rebuilt development systems to full capacity, producing new and updated products for a multitude of different platforms, including (primarily) iOS, Windows, and Mac OS X.  Our new web sites will (also) be announced here as they are published, and we have plans to begin publishing game reviews for both Indie and AAA titles.

Please be sure to subscribe to our feed.  Thanks!

A cloud is forming

Changes to this Gamecraft blog are underway.

I am currently in the process of revamping Gamecraft to make it more useful for readers and easier to find the desired content.  I am also trying to improve the marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) for the site in order to bring more visitors, and hopefully the changes will help them become regulars here.

The quest to improve my blog began with a post in the asp.members.marketing newsgroup of the Association of Software Professionals.  Responses from fellow members suggested that there was not problem with the focus or content of the postings, but rather that the organization was not ideal, especially for new visitors.  In particular, it was suggested that I add a “tag cloud” to the side bar, which I have done, and tag my posts appropriately, which process is underway but may take a while (since there are nearly 300 posts to update).

To be honest, I never really considered a tag cloud before, but now I definitely see the benefit, making the topics of the blog available at a glance.  I actually needed to make some CSS modifications to the theme in order for the one here to appear more as a cloud and less like individual lines of alphabetical keywords.  For the moment, certain keywords (e.g., “Mac”) are overrepresented based on recently activities and releases, but it is an improvement.

Other changes included moving the ‘Archives’ column to the far right, so that its length does not displace other groups, moving the ‘Categories’ column up, and adding a ‘Recent Posts’ column.  (At least some of these changes may have been made previously and then lost in a WordPress or theme update.)  In the near future, I am planning an ‘About your host‘ page for those who want to know more about me and my extensive experience, as well as a ‘Best of Gamecraft‘ section with links to some of the most useful and popular articles.

I sincerely invite any suggestions or criticism of the style, content, and organization of the blog, either via comments to this posting, or directly via email to seelhoff@sophsoft.com.  Praise, of course, would be accepted as well.

Where to Start

A few highlights of the original Gamecraft incarnation.

After importing all of the (250) posts from the original incarnation of this Gamecraft blog, during the editing process that was necessitated by the technology change, I had the opportunity to review many of the older posts.  I found lots of fascinating information (compared to just a few irrelevant bits), so I decided to provide a few pointers for those (i.e., most readers) who have not read the entire blog.

The most recent posting to receive attention was Making Mac Disk Images Pretty, which describes how we improved the appearance of Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.0 [linked from C-Command Software/DropDMG].

The best series began with Quality: An Introduction (running through Quality: The Index), discussing our guiding principle of Quality as applied to (game) software development, posted in May and June 2006.

The most controversial post was my critical review of Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, which incited a debate and continued to collect comments well after VS2008 was released.

The best quote was from Voltaire: “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien“; this translates to ‘The best is the enemy of the good.‘ [from MVP Backgammon Professional]

The worst month for posting was definitely August, during which month I only posted once over 5 years [in August 2008], a full score less than the expected (average) number of posts in that time.

This is just a small sampling from the first phase of this blog, but there is plenty more, all still available (twice over).  Now, we move forward and begin the second phase in earnest…

Gamecraft 2.0

This Gamecraft blog gets a face lift.

After nearly 5 years and exactly 250 posts, it was about time to update the appearance and features of this blog site, so here is the new Gamecraft 2.0.

Obviously, the aesthetics have changed substantially (and are likely to do so again in the future).  Technologically, I have switched to WordPress, from Blogger, and the entire publishing path is now internal (rather than editing remotely and hosting locally).  This change also means that the blog is generated dynamically from posts stored in a database, rather than a large collection of static(-ish) pages.

One of the nicest new features is the addition of a search function for the blog.  I was able (after some manual editing) to import all of the previous posts into this new blog (the ‘Older posts’ category), though I chose to lose (rather than relink) all of the comments in the process.  I did, however, retain the original Gamecraft site at http://blogger.gamecraft.org for archival purposes.

I know that there will be some teething pains as I relaunch this blog, so please let me know if/when you find issues.

Thanks! 🙂

TTFN (July, 2009)

Ta Ta For Now [22 July 2009 Edition]

In mid-summer, with no particular news from SIC, and my primary development project taking longer than expected to get completed (enough for beta testing), I am going to take a short hiatus. I have plans to improve this blog aesthetically and also have a couple of technical articles already in the pipeline, so I hope the break to be brief (yet refreshing).

One can monitor one of the feeds (RSS or Atom) for my next blog update.

Thanks for reading!