Monthly Archives: July 2014

Errors, simple not complex – Part One

Programming, it’s a complex beast. While I haven’t talked much about my current studies in C++ you can safely assume I’m knew to the language and it’s intricacies.

The current assessment i’m working on requires an SQL database. All well and good I think to myself. I’ve done plenty of PHP and MySQL web dev.This will be a breeze.

That's pretty breezy

That’s pretty breezy image from:

I knew I needed to use SQLite as defined by the assessment. So I need a library or something? Heading over to has everything you need to get going.

So, I added the .h and .c files through the right click “Add existing item” menu. Then i’m presented with the below error.

Cannot open source file

Cannot open include file

Looks can be scary

Looks can be scary

What is going on? I start looking deeper, maybe there is more involved to getting this going than I first thought.

I spent hours over two days looking for a solution, I tried building libraries including everything and altering so many settings of the project. Pro tip: do not alter settings because you feel like a good tweaking can fix everything, it doesn’t.

The solution

Copy the .h and .c files into my visual studio project.

I twigged that I might be barking up the wrong tree when I read the following.

stack overflow solution

I love you stack overflow

The solution explorer doesn’t show if stuff is usable! how helpful, knowing that I brought the files into the project and re-added them. Including the header no longer broke stuff. Progress!

Take it from me

So many times I have been caught out by this. The error is not cryptic at all, Visual Studio has no idea that i’m not going to link to the assets through one of the many methods it has for this.

So it told me it has no idea where to actually open the files, only that it knows I want them open. I feel you Visual studio and i’m sorry I didn’t understand.

Let’s not assume

I’m used to using 3D applications, for the most part these applications allow you to drag and drop assets into a content/project manager where they will either:

  • Import the asset into the project

Easy for asset management, common in game engines

  • Create a link/reference to the assets location and load it from there

Forces you to manage your assets wisely or rue the day you laughed as you linked assets from several different hard drives.

I assumed that by showing the files in the project solution VS could use them, this turns out to not be the case.

No I do not want to add includes to the project to work around this or setup a central place to include from. That’s for future me.

As with all lessons it’s well learned, learning them faster would be nice though.

Talks given – Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria

This past weekend I had the pleasure of giving three talks at the Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria (DLTV) conference on behalf of The Academy of Interactive Entertainment.

Conference Program Overview _ Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria

The conference theme was”Creating new connections”.

The talks were fun. Both to put together and take part in.

I prepared three distinct talks, below is a brief overview.

A fresh look at VCE VET IDM

This was an in depth look at a curriculum currently in the works for the Victorian scored assessed VCE VET IDM course.

With a focus on:

  • My process for developing a course
  • Meeting the goals of both secondary schools, students and AIE
  • How the coursework is designed to engage students in new ways
  • Christina covered UOC integration

Fresh look at vce vet idm

Interactive presentation for students:

Shawn Marinakis, Christina Lee and myself gave two interactive game presentations to high school and primary school aged students.

I put together the interactive tower defense game using the Unreal Engine 4. Assets/level’s are from Epic Games combined with my Blueprint Scripting assets to create the interactive portion of the presentation.

This was fun to create, we had the goal in mind that students could come up and play with the settings, which worked out well.

Starting with an imbalanced tower clearly shows game imbalance

Starting with an imbalanced tower clearly shows game imbalance

Custom Tower defense interactive game

This level from the UE4 market place was a fantastic example of a finished level

UE4 tower settings

Example of settings students could change


DLTV Conference - crowd snapshot

Creating 3D content is for everyone!

 Interactive presentation for teachers:

Stepping away from the fun side of tweaking pre-made settings Christina and I were able to dig a little deeper into how the unreal engine and other industry standard technology can engage students to excel in so much more than just making games.

Exploring this technology with a range of secondary teachers was a fantastic chance to see how other people perceive technology how may not be aware or used to it. This is a topic i’d like to explore at a later time.

Students that have a chance to work with this technology are exposed to the requirement to develop key skills such as:

  • Problem solving
  • Design
  • Critical thinking
  • Planning

By implementing these skills students get to create a fully playable game, it’s pretty cool and beneficial to the students in all walks of life.

Class blueprints for the tower defense game

Class blueprints for the tower defense game

Thank you to all the organisers of the event and I look forward to the next one!

Shawn Marinakis the Communications Coordinator for AIE Melbourne.

Christina Lee is the VETiS coordinator for AIE Melbourne.

Custom timeline control – Pyside – Maya 2014+

Recently a work colleague approached me with a request for a custom feature in Maya.

The request was for a custom tool that replicated the Maya timeline and it’s tools in a torn off window.

The colleague has a thing for large windows when animating, they enjoy a very custom setup.

So useful

If it’s useful to one person others may find it helpful as well

Tools that are going to be used are the best kind to make.

This is written entirely for Pyside, using a method for controlling Maya elements using pointers shown to me by Malcom.

As it’s written for pyside/Maya 2014+ you need not install anything to use it.

The timeline

As I looked a little deeper into this I came across this with the timeline:

From the Maya docs here

Note: only one timeControl may be created. The one Maya creates on startup can be accessed from the global string variable $gPlayBackSlider. Also, it is not a good idea to delete it.

So there can be only one, and yes I deleted it a few times. You do not want that, it does not come back.

So this tool rips the timeline from Maya and re parents it into the QT window, Holding a reference to the location it came from.

It then puts the timeline back on the close event of the QT window.

Range control

Creating the range control is straight forward as there can be more than one of these see here.

Other features

The tool will store the position and size of the window when the window is closed. It will then restore to this location/dimensions on next use.

There other elements are all QT.


The script can be downloaded here

Installation and use

  1. Unzip and copy the to “timelineCtrl” folder to maya script folder for example:
  2. C:\Users\YourName\Documents\maya\scripts
  3. run Maya, open script editor (Python window) and type in:
  4. import timelineCtrl

The import and timeline control lines can also be saved off to the shelf for easy use.

And boom, tool is good to go.

Alternate use method

If you have a thing for not installing scripts you can do the following:

  1. Copy the contents of “”
  2. Paste this into a python script editor window
  3. Run the code

Note: The refreshing of the states in the torn of window currently do not update as well as they could.

Tested on windows only, will note work with pre-Maya 2014 as Pyside is not part of the standard install.

Minecrafting the Dome

During 2013 the State Library of Victoria was celebrating the 100th Centenary of it’s famous Dome building.

While the library had plenty of different celebrations of the historic event Hamish Curry then of the State Library was after a way to do something fun and engaging involving both a younger audience and technology.

Previously Hamish and I had run Minecraft based holiday courses at the State Library that were pretty popular, often filling up within a day of becoming available.


Everything looks so peaceful


Welcome to hell

With the knowledge the success of these holiday courses Hamish knew how popular Minecraft was and how perfectly recreating the Dome inside Minecraft would engage a young audience.

Organising the event was a collaboration between three parties headed by myself. The third party was Vitta – Victorian Information Technology Teachers Association (now DLTV). Vitta helped us to spread the word of the event to schools across Victoria.

Mincrafting the dome – Application

Custom server – we needed to build a specific machine to run the server and bring that to the library, for this Peter Smee (Then Sys admin at AIE Melbourne campus) was invaluable

So what did we actually do?

We all learnt about the dome:

Hamish instills knowledge

Hamish instills knowledge

We posed in the dome:

IMG_5795 IMG_5799

And we made the Dome in Minecraft:

IMG_5851 2013-08-10_15.14.29



We sang:

And finally we finished with an amazing result:


While i’m pretty Minecrafted out, running these kind of events is always fun.

after all the hard work

Working with these guys was fantastic, they got so much done and the final result is amazing.

I mean I’ve spent some solid hours teaching a holiday course on how to make awesome stuff, such as how to make Batmobiles and race them, who doesn’t love Batmobiles?

Bot mobiles rock

Bot mobiles rock, the teapot less so

Lets get Unreal – Engine 4 announcement

This year heralded the release of Unreal engine 4, made by Epic Games.

Unreal Engine 4 logo

If you are just getting into the games industry this may not seem like a big deal, Take Autodesk for example they update every year (this is a discussion in itself) and wasn’t there Unreal Engine 3 and Unreal Development Kit just before this?

Unreal_Development_Kit_UDK_Logo Unreal_Engine_White_Logo

Well yes, yes there was. But let’s cast our minds eye to the past and take on board a few things. Things are always worth knowing.

A little history:
UE3 – Came out in 2004 and while it has been updated throughout this ten year period these have all been under the UE3 badge.

Note: If you are unfamiliar with software development of any type it’s a standard practice to release a major version and update it while the next major release is being developed. Much in the same way a games console will stay in it’s current generation for 4-10 years or so but may undergo minor updates while the next console is being planned.

Xbox 360 versions

Prominence in the gaming world

From unreal versions 1-3 Epic games has enjoyed being at the forefront of AAA game development. With popular games on most consoles and PC the unreal splash screen became a familiar site for many.

powered by unreal engine

UE3 licensing

Licensing for these previous versions where limited to high end studios with triple A budgets. I don’t have exact figures on UE3 licensing but you can assume an indie studio would not be able to afford access.

The thing to understand though is that pre-2007 there was no need for Epic Games to even consider another licensing  model. Consider that if Epic had opened it’s doors in the early 2000’s who would have used it? sure there have always been indies and occasionally there was a hit game but it’s only in the last 7 years that indie studios have been viable on a large scale.

UE4 was always going to be developed. But it most likely was not always going to be for general use.

so what changed?

Rise of the indie market.

In 2007 the Iphone was released and with it the app store.

So many apps

IOS was the driving force in bringing mobile gaming into our daily lives, what ever else we may think of Apple they are game changers.

The boom of mobile gaming saw the rise of the Indies (I love that line, so do these guys). This is a continuing trend that currently shows no signs of slowing down.

For many this was the chance they had been waiting for. A chance to make games they wanted to, either to share there vision or to simply be able to form their own studio.

This is a great thing to be able to do on both counts.

Response from Epic games.

Epic games observed this emerging market of amazing game developers producing hit after hit, at the time they where unwilling to de-value and risk there current licensing deals so what could they do?

In 2009 Epic games released the Unreal Development Kit (UDK)

So Unreal, much Kit

So Unreal, much Kit

While perfectly functional the UDK interface is aging

While perfectly functional the UDK interface is aging

UDK was and is free (although it is currently being phased out) for development use for anybody, with royalties being due if/when a game made a certain amount.

UDK had plenty of power for developing. It also had some imposed limitations, lets summarize a few points:

  • No source access.
  • Has “Kismet”, a basic (when compared to UE4 or playmaker for Unity) visual scripting implementation.
  • Scripting must be done through UDK’s unique “unrealScript”.
  • Some heavy features such as multithreading were limited.
  • Wicked networking ability
  • Unreal Tournament was the base for everything
  • Node based material editor

UDK was a great way for Epic to gauge the game dev communities interest in their engine. The interest was there but it just didn’t feel quite right, the community wanted/needed different licensing and an open communication with the Epic development team.

Keep in mind UDK is not UE3, UE3 did not have these limitations. Although i’m pretty sure it also didn’t have Kismet.

 Wow ok enough history – Unreal engine 4 release

I remember reading the news, sitting in a coffee shop waiting to visit a high school to take a workshop in Unity, ah Unity… that is a talk for another time.

Opened up the laptop and boom:

I didn’t believe it at first

So Unreal Engine 4 had no release date, none at all. We knew it was being developed but had no idea when it might come out.

The guys at Space Dust Studios have a great write up here of the UE4 announcement at GDC (as well as a comparison to Unity).

What is working with UE4 like and how does it differ to UDK?

Blows it away in every respect, but then you would hope that’s the case.

  • Source access – full access to the the c++ source
  • Blueprints – Fully functional visual scripting system, so good
  • Support, both from the devs and the community
  • Openness of the devs, check out the UE4 road map here and the blog post about it here
  • Market place – sleek interface that will allow 3rd party content to be sold to developers (currently not active for 3rd parties but is in use by Epic to share example projects).
  • Templates – these are great, want to start in a flying space ship using only Blueprints? sure thing!
  • Example projects – these are often fully fleshed out game worlds
  • Content example project – this one is worth pulling aside from the standard example projects as it’s an amazing resource in itself
Mmmm dark interface

Mmmm dark interface

What blew me away is that this is all part of very reasonable license agreement, this looked so good that I had to did some thorough checking before getting carried away, and then I get really excited.

Multi-platform goodnes

Multi-platform goodness

The licensing was all of a sudden friendly to indies and also educational institutes.

For example:

  • An indie studio can pay $20 per per seat. At this time they can cancel the subscription and continue to use the engine, opting back in at any time is fine.
  • An academic institute will only have to pay $20 a month or a year using the above method for the entire campus. This is fantastic for all institutes and is a good sign Epic is keen on students getting familiar with the engine.

For more about the licensing please visit the source here.

UE4 is a fantastic engine and I’m enjoying working with it.

This post is getting pretty big, I’ll leave it here and post in the future with a more in depth break down of UE4 on it’s own. May even do a tutorial or two on using the engine.

While I do want to talk about comparisons of game engines as well i’ll leave the fun for another post.

Disclaimer: Any references to decision making by any party is pure speculation on my part, informed though it is.