New cleaner site design

I’ve updated my site’s design again, this time using the base WordPress theme template from Hybrid. The old theme I was using was far too busy, so I wanted something cleaner.

This is the now the second time I’ve done some web development on OSX. I am using Coda as an IDE. I was pleasantly surprised to find PHP built into OSX, remembering how tiresome it was to get PHP ready on Windows (let alone getting it running in IIS7).

Still working on fixing for IE6 – halfway there. The transparency effects are turned off with some CSS hacking but there are still bugs.

“Native” HD MKV playback in Windows 7

Windows 7 has been out for a few days for MSDN members and the public beta is due soon. One of the best new features is native DivX, AVCHD and mp4 video support. With the codec framework completely changed (as explained by Long Zheng here), usual MKV splitters for Windows Media Player no longer work and viewing HD MKV files now definitely requires VLC for now.

image On my travels I found an application called TSMuxer on the doom9 forums – this has the ability to very quickly convert HD video files between formats with no quality loss whatsoever. This works by changing the container formats but keeping the video and audio streams the same.image

The screenshot above shows the settings I used to convert an episode of Heroes into an AVCHD .m2ts file. The process took about 2 minutes and resulted in a file that plays natively in Windows Media Player 12, Windows Media Center and even better – streams and plays in HD to an Xbox 360 Media Center Extender. No stupid codec packs and no dodgy DirectShow filters. Lovely.

Back in Japan

For the forseeable future I’m back in Japan since finally finishing my Uni course. After working full time since May I’ve decided to have a bit of a gap year style break before I settle down somewhere. Expect this blog to become a bit more of a personal one with some photos etc.

My phone is back in action and my keitai address is ed.andersen at softbank.ne.jp 🙂 Feel free to drop me a line.

Lines now on Xbox Live

So my grand plan to rewrite my game for the Community Games launch didn’t quite go according to plan, so I decided to polish up the original version as a bit of practice. It has now been approved and is on Xbox Live Community Games – NXE users can download the trial and buy it now, while everyone on the old dashboard will have to wait until November 19th. The internet ranking site is up at http://www.edngames.com – by soliciting scores I should be able to get a decent idea of how many people are buying the full game which you need to do to get internet ranking passwords.

Edbox-7 copy

The Community Games community is just getting off the ground, and already establishing its own “ground rules” for peer review based on the very loose guidelines set forth by Microsoft (presumably so they cannot be held responsible for anything that gets passed). The most important points to watch out for, and the community WILL FAIL you for breaking are:

  • Be able to use multiple controllers – much to the chagrin of some of the creators, the community will fail your game if you cannot play it with any controller plugged in. Don’t hardcode for PlayerIndex.One.
  • Test with more than one storage device – you have to be able to support memory cards as well as hard discs, and to be able to show the Guide selector asyncronously. I was caught out by the case where you can cancel the selection (which will cause EndShowStorageDeviceSelection to return null) so remember this is a valid input.
  • Small text and TitleSafeArea – many reviewers are using SD CRT tellies, not lovely HDTVs that many are now using and many creators use to test their games. Small text is a massive issue and SDTV users WILL fail your game if they can’t read anything crucial to gameplay (instructions etc). In addition, the area of the game screen you can see on a SDTV is much smaller due to the increased overscan, so use the TitleSafeArea property to make sure your text is within the overscan limits.
  • Make a “game” – the community has already had its fair share of drama, including one member simply submitting reskinned Starter Kits (templates from Microsoft) that didn’t meet the submission rules and one producing a Magic 8-Ball style game that requires the chatpad peripheral that simply nobody owns to play. Even if the game technically meets the submission criteria, the community can and will still fail it if they deem it unsuitable for the service (or increasingly if the submission will make the service look bad) either by trying their hardest to find a crash bug or simply not reviewing the game so it never passes peer review.

Lines is available for 200 Microsoft Points which is about $2.50. I get 70% of this so I could get some beer money. Fingers crossed!