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Hello, QtQuick!

It's been a while... As usual, this means that there's been a lot going on and I simply didn't have time to write. However, I'm planning to start a new series of articles dedicated to QtQuick. It's been over 2 months since I started my adventure with QtQuick, so I have some initial observations of its strong and weak points that I would like to share.

I think that the biggest problem with QtQuick is that it's hugely undervalued. Unfortunately, there are some political reasons behind this. Major software companies try to tie developers to their platforms and platform-specific frameworks. It's no big surprise that Nokia had to get rid of Qt when it was purchased by Microsoft, even though in theory a good cross-platform framework should be a goldmine for the company who owns it. The result is that many people unduly consider Qt dead.

The reality is that QtQuick has a lot of potential. It's more powerful than HTML5 when it comes to rich, platform-independent UI, and it's supported by powerful back-end Qt modules. It's free even for commercial use, and it's quite mature and still actively developed. It also supports both mobile and desktop platforms. Of course, there are also disadvantages. First, in order to use QtQuick you need to learn QML, which is not as easy as it seems, especially when attempting to create complex applications. Second, QtQuick (and Qt in general) is a toolkit, not a framework, so you have to lay down a lot of foundation before you can start being productive developing the actual application. Finally, the documentation is quite poor, and there is not too much open source code using QtQuick that you can peak into, so it's often difficult to find any useful information about a problem you're trying to solve. Because of that, learning QtQuick requires a bit of trial and error approach, but from what I can tell so far, it's worth the effort.

Apart from the fact that QtQuick has many ready to use UI components (including the Quick Controls), there are also additional benefits from writing the application partially in QML and partially in C++. When the UI is written entirely in QML, it can be designed by people with graphical skills, who don't necessarily need to know low level programming languages like C++. It's similar to how HTML/CSS templates are created independently from PHP (or whatever) code in web applications. Also the UI of the application can be fully tested without writing a single line of C++ code, which is great for rapid design and prototyping. To make it possible, simple stubs (mock objects) for application logic can be written in QML. When using a simple MVP or MVC pattern it's also possible to easily switch views - for example between the desktop and mobile versions of the application. I will write more about it in one of the next articles.

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Life goes on

Mister Tins is now officially in sale, which means it's officially dead, and that's not a big surprise to me. I guess it's time for a brief post-mortem summary of what went right and what went wrong. Well, the good thing is that I finished it, and it was fun, not to mention that my long time dream to make a game has come true :). I still think it was quite a good idea, and a bit underrated, but looking back I think there are at least three reasons why this whole project was doomed from the beginning:

  • Modern games are driven by artists, not by developers. It's just no longer "let's do the hard work and write the whole code and then we'll just throw in a few textures and the game will be ready". On the contrary, you take an existing engine like Unity, and then all the hard work is graphics, models, animations; the programming comes down to scripting a few events. I'm oversimplifying, but you get the point.
  • Modern games take a lot of work. Even a simple indie game requires a team of at least a few dedicated persons and often takes years, especially when people have another full time job. I spent six months, but in reality only during the first few weeks I spent significant time on this project. It's good that I started with something simple enough that I was able to finish it, but it can't compete with all the professional games in the market.
  • Another thing, which is perhaps not a strong requirement, but certainly helps, is when you can participate in various events and shows, contact other game developers, potential players and especially the press, long before your game is finished. Obviously, it's easier when you live in a large city in USA or Canada, not in some shithole in Poland…

In conclusion, if I'm ever going to get involved in another game, I'd certainly be joining an existing, dedicated team of artists, who need a coding monkey, and I'd teach myself Unity. Anyway, it's not going to happen very soon :). The good news is that now I finally have some time to release a new version of Saladin and WebIssues, work on redesigning my book, and simply read and play some games.

Also in my personal life there have been some changes recently; for example, I'm getting a divorce. I could make a similar list of things that went wrong, but I will spare you the details. Let's just say that one day you think you know someone, and then it turns out that your goals and values are so different that you simply can't go on any further. At first I was really upset because I hoped our son could have a "normal" family, especially that I din't have one, but the truth is that now I spend much more time with him than before we separated, and I'm definitely going to do everything I can to make it up for him. So I went through the whole denial-anger-regret stages and in the end I think it's for the better for all of us.

Luckily, there have been some positive changes too. I renewed an old friendship and made a new one, and that's something you can't overvalue. It also may have bigger consequences, because I think that I finally found a team of dedicated people and we have a chance to work on a very interesting and promising project - maybe it's not a game, but it's not one of those boring warehouse/financial/enterprise kind of applications either. So, life goes on…

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Mister Tins released

I just released the first beta version of Mister Tins. You can download it for free and play the first five levels in demo mode. For now the full version is only available for beta testers and press, if you're interested then please contact me. In a nutshell, Mister Tins is a puzzle indie game for PC in a top-down perspective view. The goal is to move boxes to open doors, jump between platforms and different floors, avoid obstacles and find the exit from a labyrinth of rooms.

Here's the official trailer of the game:

You can find more information about the game on the official blog of the MiMec Games team.

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Issues and Tins

Today I released version 1.1 of WebIssues, a major release which introduces lots of very nice and useful features. I must admit that I'm relieved that this project is finally over. It's also perfect timing, because I'm getting seriously involved in the indie game which I announced some time ago. The game is now officially called Mister Tins and it even already has a Facebook page and a blog (where I will probably post more often than here in the nearest future).

What started as a quick test project, has now become a playable and quite enjoyable game (at least for me). It's still very far from the first official release, but at least now I'm convinced that this is really what I want to do. It's what I always wanted to do and what I probably should have done a long time ago.

I'm not saying that I regret what I've been doing for the last few years. I definitely wouldn't be half as good programmer if it wasn't for WebIssues. I would even go as far as saying that I wouldn't be half the person I am today if it wasn't for all the open source projects I've been involved in. All this technical and non-technical experience should now pay off with this new project.

Of course, there's no guarantee that I will succeed. I know that there is a lot of potential in what I'm doing, and the whole idea of the game, while simple, seems quite innovative. On the other hand, there are many factors involved, and not all of them depend on me. A lot of luck is needed to provide what people need exactly in the right moment. Also, creating games is a team sport, and experience taught me that finding the right team members is not easy an task. But the best thing is that I've reached one very major goal, which was releasing WebIssues 1.1, and I can immediately concentrate on the next goal, without losing the momentum that I have.

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Going Indie?

I spent most of the last six weeks sharing my free time between two projects: the upcoming 1.1 release of WebIssues and the final chapters of the second part of my book. So the next logical step is... to start a new, third project. It's been a long time since I last started a completely new project and at some point I even though it's not going to happen anymore... But, as usual, in the least expected moment, an idea came to my mind and formed quite a clear shape. Within a few days I hacked together a proof of concept of what's supposed to be a combination of classic logic and arcade games.

The idea of the game is that there is a simple labyrinth which you can see from above, but it's three-dimensional, with multiple levels, so you can jump and fall, go up and down stairs, etc. So far the player consists of just a helmet which I modeled using Descend and some crazy math. Within an hour I added an export function to Descend which saves the model into a very simple file format which can be then imported by the game engine. So far it looks very cool :).

I know that a lot of people are waiting for WebIssues 1.1. I promised that it will be released by the end of this year and I'm going to try hard to keep that promise. I'm really very close, especially that I've already cut off a lot of unnecessary things and I'm only focusing on the most useful features. After it's done I'm going to take a longer break from it, especially that now I understand that I was fooling myself thinking that as it becomes more and more popular, someday I will be able to make some profit from it.

The book is unfortunately going to have to wait for now, even though it's probably about 75% done and there are a few people waiting for me to finish it as well. But the question whether I can expect anyone to ever publish it remains open; not because it's not good enough, but because publishers don't invest money in a book written by completely unknown authors, and it's quite understandable. But next year I'm definitely going to finish it, even if it's going to end up as a few xeroxed volumes for friends and family.

The game, if I'm really ever going to create it, most likely won't be open source like my other projects. Not that I expect to make any real money on it. I'm aware of the fact that there is a lot of competition in indie games industry and it takes a lot of PR and marketing effort to achieve even a moderate commercial success. I'm only going to do it as long as I feel it's fun. After all, I've been into making computer game since I was a child. Perhaps I'm feeling a bit nostalgic lately and somehow I feel that this is the last chance to revive those old inclinations.

All projects I've done so far I did entirely for my own satisfaction. The process of creation is in most part a great experience by itself, kind of like exploring new unknown lands. And the biggest satisfaction comes from the realization that someone is actually going to use my program, read my book or play my game, and experience the same thing from a completely different perspective. We're more like artists than businessmen; it's the individual opinions that matter, not the numbers. That's why I can make decisions regarding my personal projects which not always seem rational, but often end up with something really interesting.

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Tags: personal
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