Saturday, August 29, 2009

Relativia is Submitted

Well, I just submitted Relativia to the Android Developer Challenge II. It was a hell of a slog, and I have mixed feelings about the project.

I think the idea and the basic design was good. I think the puzzle combat system is fun, unique, and well-designed. I think the map interface is somewhat simple, but stable and good.

But here are some concerns:

1) Right up until submission I was getting a force close error in the emulator after closing the application for the first time. I don't get this on the hardware device, but it has to do with inflating views, and I'm a little worried about how it will perform on different devices. For the contest, the app may be on any of the currently released devices.

2) I'm worried about bugs in general. I wasn't able to do much testing, so there are probably errors. I'm sure users will find them. I just hope the core gameplay is intact.

3) I added music the last week, and the Android media support in the SDK is pretty horrible. I had several looping music tracks that are seamless when wrapped, but I was getting an audible gap when using the looping feature in Android's MediaPlayer. I read that .ogg files worked better than .wav or .mp3, so I used .ogg files instead. The pause was less pronounced, but still there. I thought about fading the audio in and out, but there isn't a native function for that either, and I didn't have time to mess with doing my own. Ah well.

Things I would have done if given more time/resources:

1) Added much more polish to the game, mostly in the form of custom interface elements, such as buttons and drop-down menus. I use a lot of pre-built stuff, and it doesn't look that slick.

2) Added sounds to nearly every user function, such as screen transitions and button presses. Just didn't have time.

3) Play tested in multiple geographic regions. The three search terms I'm using are "hotel", "coffee+shop", and "grocery". I didn't do any testing in Google maps for non-English speaking locales, and I don't know how it will perform.

I'm just worried in general about the overall complexity of the programming. There's a ton of code and a thousand things could go wrong. If I released it on the market and got feedback, I could make corrections, but the contest does not allow upgrades to submissions, so what I just sent in is the final deal.

Still, I learned a great deal this summer, and got a ton more experience with Android, some good and some bad. I learned how to handle multiple activities, to transition between a main activity and a map activity. I learned how better to handle data with XML, and I learned a lot more about handling media such as graphics and audio.

I can safely say I'm in no hurry to write another RPG, even as small-scale as this one was. I only have 4 species, 4 classes, 3 spells per class, 8 types of enemies, with 3 spells each, 12 items of armor and weaponry, and 5 quests, but it felt like a damn mountain of stuff to handle.

Still, I'm glad I did it, but even more glad to be done with it. If the game is stable and playable on most phones, I hope to do reasonably well, at least make it to the first cut, into the top 20 in the division. But I expect that my category Games: Casual/Puzzle will most likely be the one with the most entrants and the most competition.

Even if it's buggy and gets thrashed in the first round of judging, hopefully I'll get some feedback about how to either make it better. I've also considered massively paring it down and just releasing the puzzle game as a stand-alone.

We'll see.

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