High-Tech solar eclipse gadget

For watching the partial solar eclipse event today in Europe, I used only high tech equipment. It even apparently had HDMI support:

It actually worked, and the sun appeared like a crescent moon in that device, with a size of about half a centimeter. I didn't notice any benefit of that advertised HDMI support, though. :)



Cities: Skylines Review

About 25 (!) years ago, I played the first SimCity. You could build your own city, with streets, electricity and everything, and try to let it withstand catastrophic events like Godzilla or nuclear metldowns. It was great. I spent a lot of time with it. I also played Sim City 2000 as a teenager, but I didn't try the newer versions, especially not the latest incarnation from 2013, called simply 'SimCity' (without a number), which apparently sucked, according to many reviews.

Then, a few days ago, a SimCity style game named Cities: Skylines was released. I saw a few Youtube reviews of it, and was fascinated. I bought it, and had even a few (much too less) hours to play it. This is the city I built so far:

Boy, is this game fun. It has all the features you'd expect from a modern city building simulation. And it is quite impressive. You can build very huge cities with streets and layouts as you like, as here:

And zoom into every detail of your city, and follow every car, truck or even person:

Playing it gives you the same feeling as the old Transport Tycoon did, but with todays modern graphics. The game has so many options and features, it doesn't get boring quickly. It is also very impressive from a technical perspective, because it seems every person and car is actually simulated. It felt wrong paying only 27 euro for this. Not sure why they are selling it that cheap. Same for the name of the game: Why is it that strange?

Anyway, if you like city simulations, I can really recommend this game. Too bad I don't have much time for playing.



Amazon Prime Instant Video

Since about two months, I'm a Amazon Prime user, and quite happy with that. You don't only get free delivery with this, you also get to access to Amazon Prime Instant Video, an on demand video service, like the better known Netflix.

I was skeptical in the beginning, but although I have to live with our slow country side internet access, it works like a charm. You can watch whatever you want, whenever you want, without commercials. Amazon seems to be just starting with this, so the list of videos is big but limited, but I never have switched on the TV for one month now. I think if something is going to kill television, it is netflix, amazon's instant video and co. It is so convenient. Wondering why the TV stations still offer only very few of their shows online, and if, then usually not for a flat rate.



CopperCube 5.2 and its water rendering

I just released the game engine CopperCube in version 5.2 as free update. Besides other features, it includes the announced water surface rendering, which I managed to make work on all supported platforms: Windows (D3D and OpenGL), Mac OS X, WebGL, Android, and even Flash. It looks nicely on all of these, here are some examples:

It looks much nicer in movement, of course. If you want to see it in action, you can try it directly on a website, I created a small demo with two different scenes: WebGL Water rendering demo. It works surprisingly fast, and also does look nicely.

I'm very happy about this release. It also includes a lot of other changes (detailed list here), like localization. Meaning the editor user interface now also works with different languages. I already added a german translation, and planning to add some more later.

Hope you like this release!



Baffled by Microsoft Developer Support

I think I mentioned this already on this blog, but this week, the Microsoft Developer Support again has left me completely astonished: I had a small problem and left without any other options, I contacted Microsoft directly, via mail. After a couple of hours, a real human answered my mail, with a working solution and friendly text referring my mail, which proved that the support guy didn't even copy and paste that text from some existing solution. I thanked him for that quick help and he even replied friendly again, like a real human.

If you ever had a problem as software developer, developing for a platform of Apple or Google (as I did), you will be totally surprised by that. I never, ever received a helpful answer from any Apple developer support or App store reviewer. In most cases, it seems like they don't even read what you write. And in more than one case, I received an obviously copy and pasted text back, insisting that everything is my fault.

Microsoft is really doing very well there. Wonder why my products are so much better on Windows, and have less bugs there? Now you know why.



Water

I just implemented a nice looking feature into CopperCube, which will very likely make it into the next free update: Nice looking realtime water surfaces:

It will be possible to create oceans, lakes and rivers with it easily. I think this will also work nicely and pretty fast in WebGL, I'm not so sure about Flash and Android yet, but I'm positive so far. The implementation is pretty simple: And if you do the texture access offsets in a nice way using a decent normal map, it looks actually like waves. This technique is not very new and doesn't need many resources, and that's why I think it will work nicely in WebGL as well. Will post a WebGL test example once I have some. But first, I have to finalize this feature in the editor first.



Pieces of modern Art

People sometimes forget that a programming language is a tool to tell the computer what to do, and to tell other programmers what you wanted the computer to do.

Programming languages are not a way to write a piece of modern art, to create algorithms in the most inconvenient, unreadable but shortest way possible. Unfortunately, some people seem to think that way. Fortunately again, this is also the reason why a lot of programmers still have a job.



The Long Dark

I'm not a fan or early access games, or "paying for beta testing games" as I would call it, but after a recommendation, I bought the survival game "The Long Dark" which isn't a finished game yet.

The game play works basically like this: Without a lot of tools or supplies, you get thrown somewhere randomly into the Canadian wilderness during Winter, and you need to survive. You mainly fight against hunger and the cold, and sometimes also wolves, but that's it already.



I don't have much time for playing games, but this type of game still fits quite well into my gaming habits: I usually die pretty quickly in this game. The best I've done so far was surviving for about 4 days, I think. And although the game isn't finished yet (there is only the sandbox mode available, the game will apparently contain a story as well once finished), it is both fun and frustrating at the same time.

So far, I can recommend the game, especially if you are interested in learning how much nature sucks. :)



Our Steam Greenlight Progress so far

About 3 months ago, I added CopperCube to Steam Greenlight, Valve's pipeline for testing if unknown games and apps are worth for publishing them onto their game selling platform 'Steam'.

We've received primarily only positive feedback on that page so far, but the amount of votes isn't as high as I thought they would be. I think one reason for this might be the Steam User interface update: Today, it is not easy to find the Greenlight pages anymore, especially not the ones for apps (instead of games). First, you have to click the rarely used top Menu Community -> Greenlight.


And then, you still need to select "software" manually from the again rarely used menu:


Not very easy to stumble upon it that way. But I'm not sure if this is actually the reason for the low amount of votes, maybe there is some other one, and I don't have any values for comparison.

Anyway, I was quite happy to see that so far, most people voted with "yes please!" for CopperCube, even 71%:


However, as mentioned, there is this huge drop in visits:


Seems like the the visits went down to nearly zero around November 10th. Very strange.

But anyway, let's see if this will go somewhere. If you haven't voted on Steam for CopperCube yet, it would be nice if you would do this and help me a bit!

I'll post updated stats in a few months again.



Heating, Energy, Zubadan and Me

I create software for a living, which is a rather clean and environment friendly business. But because of this climate change and earth destroying stuff going on, I recently thought it might be still a good idea to be more eco-friendly. So I made a few changes:

The first step was to switch our energy provider, which just needed 5 minutes of my time on a website. For a few weeks now, my office has been powered by 100% clean hydro-electric engery, and I pay even less for my power now.

The second step was to rip out the old oil-fired heating, and replace it with this monster:

(I took this picture last week, when we had a lot of snow)

It is a Mitsubishi Zubadan air-to-water heat pump, which now heats our building. Basically, it gets the heat from the air and sends it into your heating system. This concept is rather new for many people, and I was also a bit skeptical. I didn't really think that this would work also on very cold days, but we had a pretty cold last week (-9 C Celsius = 15.4 Fahrenheit), and it provided 60C hot water without a problem. In addition, although the power usage went up on that day, the costs still were lower than what our old oil heating system would have used:

(Note: The power needed shown is the one of the full house, not only the heating system)

Right now, I really love the system. Less costs, cleaner energy, no need to buy refills and the like, quite a Win-Win-Win situation. And basically, now our heating and power is generated fully by water power. It is a quite nice feeling.