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Porting experiences
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Weeble
Starscape Jedi
Starscape Jedi


Joined: 25 Apr 2003
Posts: 1143
Location: Glasgow, Scotland



PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 12:33 pm    Post subject: Porting experiences Reply with quote

You mentioned that the attempt to port Starscape to the Mac presented many obstacles even with the use of OpenGL and SDL. Could you perhaps give an idea of the kinds of things that came up? Are these things like endianness and peculiarities of the differences between compilers? Or is it problems with system APIs not being able to provide quite the same services? Has it affected how you write Mr Robot, or will it affect how you write later games?
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Poo Bear
Pod Team
Pod Team


Joined: 14 Oct 2002
Posts: 4121
Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With Starscape we tried to port it as an after thought and had no experience with the Mac either. I don't know if we had the wrong tools or not, but the Mac debugger seemed quite unstable with the machine going down quite often when something went wrong with the game, which made debugging almost impossible. It was also very difficult, at the time, to get what seemed like basic information i.e. install, uninstall, reading joysticks, task switching, audio, OS versions, differences between Mac models, etc. Libraries that were supposed to be cross platform seemed a bit half baked on the Mac (at that time), presumably a lot of effort is put into the more popular PC versions and the Mac suffers a bit as a result. It didn't seem like something that could fit in the schedule, we thought it would be straightforward but going from a basic functional Mac game (which took too long anyway) to a polished product we could sell seemed like it would take a huge amount of work.

Then with MrRobot our tools programmer left quite suddenly which really put paid to any Mac plans we had.

Quite frustrating.

In the future I want to try steering clear of custom built in-house tools i.e. rendering, sound, input, etc. Instead I want to look at open source cross platform tools like Ogre, OpenAL, Raknet, etc. In theory they should be more flexible and most of the ones I'm looking at seem quite mature now and hopefully better able to deliver. I'd also get a Mac in from day 1 and make sure we did a weekly or monthly build all the way through development to ensure we solved any problems as soon as they manifested themselves.

The ability to boot Mac's with winXP has also clouded the issue, it might not make any difference, but given time we might see Mac gamers all using dual boot. If that happens then there is even less financial sense in making a Mac port, we shall see.

I hate to make generalisations, but Linux users don't seem all that keen on paying for software (which is fair enough) and the games market is even smaller than Mac's. Still, I wonder if it isn't perhaps an easier platform to port to than a Mac, perhaps you could view it as a stepping stone. Don't really know enough about it to say for sure though.

As far as console ports are concerned, well, the brave new dawn of mass indie console releases was a bit premature. Console manufacturers still want the full long winded committee review submission process, they still want exclusive titles and they still want your game to take advantage of every last feature the console supports. Bottom line is they don't want straight ports of PC games, but doing anything more is very difficult for a two man outfit with bills to pay.

What you really need is another programmer who can specialise in whatever platform you want to port to, that would be ideal. Using a contractor is difficult as you don't want to bring someone in at the end and offload 200k lines of code onto them and say "good luck". However, if you want to bring in a contractor from day 1 and keep him in the loop all through development then that is going to get quite expensive.

So yes, it's a lot more complicated an issue than it ought to be, but I definitely want to get future titles onto other platforms if it is at all possible.
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