Posts Tagged ‘Game Development’

iOS SpriteKit Memory Leaks

November 4th, 2014

I was building a SpriteKit game at work the other day and ran into a couple of annoying issues that were causing memory leaks in my app. The first one was created when I set up the GameScene (an SKScene subclass) in my view controller:

- (void)viewDidLoad {
    [super viewDidLoad];
    SKView * skView = (SKView *)self.view;
    // Create and present the scene.
    GameScene * scene = [GameScene sceneWithSize:skView.bounds.size];
    scene.scaleMode = SKSceneScaleModeAspectFill;
    [skView presentScene:scene];

There’s one big problem with the code above: the view bounds haven’t been set in viewDidLoad. So, the GameScene size will probably be wrong. No problem, we’ll just move it to where we know the view bounds have been set:

- (void)viewWillLayoutSubviews {
    [super viewWillLayoutSubviews];
    SKView * skView = (SKView *)self.view;
    // Create and present the scene.
    GameScene * scene = [GameScene sceneWithSize:skView.bounds.size];
    scene.scaleMode = SKSceneScaleModeAspectFill;
    [skView presentScene:scene];

…except for one thing. Now, the GameScene gets recreated every time you come to the ViewController. If you are doing everything inside SpriteKit, then this isn’t an issue, but my app had several ViewControllers. Each time I left the GameViewController and returned, it would run this code again, creating a new GameScene each time. The old scenes were not being destroyed, so this created a large memory leak on an iPad Mini with iOS7 (about 20% CPU increase each time the GameScene started) that would crash the app after a few games.

The solution is simple:

- (void) viewDidDisappear:(BOOL)animated {
    [super viewDidDisappear:animated];
    SKView * skView = (SKView *)self.view;
    [skView presentScene:nil]; //remove everything from memory

This ensures that the GameScene is destroyed when you leave the GameViewController.

This solved most of my problems, but I still had a small memory leak. It wasn’t a big deal and I was tempted not to worry about it, but this game was going to be used in a tradeshow booth, which meant that it would be running for hours at a time. Under those conditions, even a small memory leak could be a big problem.

I was able to isolate the remaining issue to the fact that I set a protocol on my GameScene:

@protocol GameSceneDelegate 

- (void) triggerGameOver;

The parent GameViewController implemented the delegate to display a “Game Over” UIView. Even though I was destroying the GameScene, the delegate reference was still not being destroyed. It seems that SpriteKit classes are not reference counted in the same way as standard iOS classes (?). So, I replaced the protocol/delegate with an NSNotification that was sent by my SKScene and picked up by the parent ViewController. Decoupling the 2 classes fixed the memory leak and everything worked as expected.

Oddly, the memory leak only seemed to be an issue in iOS7. iOS8 worked fine. Maybe it was a bug that’s been fixed? As always, I hope maybe this helps prevent a bit of frustration for someone else.

Using Intellij IDEA for Actionscript Development

May 30th, 2013

I’ve been a die-hard Windows guy for a long time, but this year I switched to using a Mac so I could learn some iOS development. Since I made the switch, there are a few PC-only programs I miss. One of them is FlashDevelop – which I use(d) for all of my Flash/Actionscript work.

Flash is dying – that’s a fact. Not many new projects are being built in Actionscript these days, but I still get some Flash work trickling in now and then. I’ll also have a need to maintain or update older Flash projects for a few more years, so I need a good Actionscript IDE on my Mac. I tried running FlashDevelop on Parallels, but there were a few nagging problems with it that made it less than optimal. After doing some research on Actionscript IDEs for the Mac, I settled on Intellij IDEA. I was already using PHPStorm and I liked it a lot, so I thought I would give Intellij a try.

It’s been a great IDE for AS3 work. I like it almost as much as FlashDevelop, but the documentation is lacking a bit. Figuring out how to tweak the project settings was a hassle, so I made a video tutorial showing how to set up an Actionscript project in Intellij IDEA:

BTW, Intellij IDEA is an awesome all-around IDE that is definitely worth the $200 license. I use it for basically everything. Check it out for all of your HTML, CSS, javascript, PHP, Ruby, Rails, and JAVA needs.

iOS Game Development – Prototyping Part 1

May 8th, 2013

Another post in my iOS game development series

I strained my back last weekend (I’m getting old), so I’m spending a lot of time sitting down these days,┬árecuperating. On the bright side, I’ve had time to start prototyping the Bouncing Babies clone I’m building for iOS. You can see my progress below:

If you want to check out my code, you can clone the GIT repo. Here are a few notes about the prototype:

I don't have any "levels" in the game yet. So far, it just feeds you one "baby" (yellow ball) after another until you get bored. I was just trying to test out the bouncing and the controls. I will add escalating difficulty in the next week or two.

Since this is a prototype, the code has almost no comments and the structure is a bit of a mess. Prototyping is meant to be quick and dirty. The idea is to get a working demo as fast as possible and not worry about the architecture. This helps define what's involved in building the real game. Ideally, you should throw out the prototype when you're done with it.

You'll need a copy of the Flash CS5 IDE to compile the demo. I'm comfortable coding in Actionscript, so I can build faster in Flash than any other method. I decided to sacrifice open-sourciness for speed in this case. I put all of the code in Actionscript class files, so you can dig through the code without Flash CS5 if you wish.

Realism and simulation are often unnecessary. In this game, I want the bounces to be equal distances apart. If the bounces were realistic, they wouldn't be equally spaced. But, I can make it feel right just by carefully adjusting the height and speed of each bounce. The game won't actually model reality, but a user won't notice because it feels right.

Along those lines, I wanted the bouncing on screen to look good. I know that the path of a ball flying through the air is given by a second-order (parabolic) equation:

y = Ax2 + Bx + C
So, I used this basic equation to specify each bounce. From linear algebra, I knew that I needed 3 equations to solve for my 3 unknowns (A, B, and C), which meant that I needed 3 points on each bounce. These were easily measured directly from the original game, but it takes about 5 minutes to do the algebra for each curve. There are 4 curves. What if I decided later that I wanted to tweak the height or width of the curves? So, I spent a little longer solving the equations with a set of hypothetical points: (a,b), (c,d), (e,f) and used them to create a helper file in Flash. It's in the GIT repo as arcmaker.fla. I can input any 3 points and it will calculate A, B, and C for me. It also draws the graph on top of a screenshot of the original game so I can see it. Last, it spits out some text that I can copy-paste into my game actionscript files. I probably spent a little over an hour on this. I used to resist coding helper scripts and level editors, thinking that it would be a waste of time, but it almost always pays off. If you think a helper script might be useful, go ahead and make it.

Another way of making the game feel right is to speed up the ball a bit on each bounce. When the ball moves at a constant horizontal speed, it actually feels like it's slowing down (because my bounce paths are too wide). I use a multiplier to speed up the ball a bit on each bounce. I created another helper for fine-tuning this. If you right-click on the Flash demo above and choose "Show Testing Console", you can change this multiplier. I have it set at a value that feels okay to me. a value of 1 will not change the speed at all - try it and you'll observe the "slowing down" effect. a value of 2 will double the speed on each bounce, 3 will triple it, etc. After updating the multiplier, right-click on the screen again and choose "Hide Testing Console" to play the game with the new speed settings. Tweak the multiplier value until the game feels right. It's amazing how such a small thing can make a huge difference in how the game feels. Again, this is another one of those helpers that is worth the time to code because I can quickly try different values and see what feels right.

The prototype is coming along nicely. I just have to code in my levels to ramp up the difficulty. Then, I can start figuring out how to port the game to iOS.

In case you missed it, the GIT repo is here. Clone it and you can follow my progress as I continue working.

...And you thought you'd never use algebra in "real life":

game design - who says you'll never need algebra

Yes, smarty pants, I know I could have solved the equations more easily with matrices, but my matrix algebra is super rusty, so I did it old-school.



Entity Component Systems – A Practical Example

April 25th, 2013

I have been reading up on entity component game engine architecture a lot lately. Essentially, an entity component system uses composition to create objects and throws away old-school inheritance style programming. This is because game objects feature a lot of complex functionality that can create inheritance chain problems. I understand the concept and it makes a lot of sense, but there are very few nuts-and-bolts breakdowns of how to implement an entity component system.

Luckily, Richard Lord has come to the rescue with Ash. It’s an Actionscript3 entity component game engine. He also wrote an extremely detailed blog post outlining the difference between an inheritance-based design and an entity component design, with a ton of code snippets so you can see the implementation details.

Please note that Ash is just one variation of an entity component system. There are other ways to do it, but this is the best explanation of entity component systems that I’ve found.