Author Archives: stefanhendriks

RTS Game: Incubator week started!

Today I have begun an ‘Incubator week’. This means I have allocated a whole week to work on my game. One week without any distractions, at a separate location. Focussed to work on the game.

And even more awesome, I have some help from Arjen van der Ende for a few days.

In this week we’re going to work on:

  • Merging the Harvester logic
  • Minimap
  • Power Resource
  • AI

A lot of the things to get the Minimal Playable Game finished!

 

I am very grateful that my family supports me to chase my dream and give me the opportunity to work on my game like this! Thanks! Also, thanks Arjen for helping me out!

RTS Game: Building the game, plan of attack

In my previous post I announced the start of my dream: building my own game.

In this post I will elaborate further about the goal I have set and how I intent to reach that goal. Writing a game is, like any project, quite a challenge. It is a continuous process of ‘zooming in’ (doing the actual work) and ‘zooming out’ (keeping an eye on the bigger picture). Only that way you can be sure you reach the goal in the most efficient manner.

Like any project, to keep it clear what to do, there is a list of tasks. It is wise to (ball-park) estimate how much time they will consume. At the same time there is a desired ‘launch date’. This brings a certain tension as you want as much value (features/tasks) done on launch date. Usually you have a minimal amount of tasks you have to get done.

Since I am now the developer and ‘product owner‘ at the same time I experience both sides. I need to investigate what to do to reach my goals. At the same time estimate and do the actual work.

This blog post covers the questions:

  • What needs to be done?
  • When will they be done?
  • What is the ‘end-date’?

What needs to be done?

In the grand scheme of things (zoomed out), roughly:

  • make the game ‘feature complete’
  • make my own graphics, sounds, etc
  • easily distributable & installable

What is ‘feature complete’?

I am heavily inspired by the first versions of C&C (RA), and I feel that to have a minimum playable game there should be at least:

  • 1 resource to ‘mine’ to earn money with (est: 8 hours)
  • 1 ‘power’ resource (est: 4 hours)
  • 1 faction to play with as a player (est: 0 hours)
  • A simple tech-tree (structures) (est: 8 hours)
    • Central structure to produce other structures (Const yard in C&C)
    • Power plant
    • Barracks
    • Factory
    • Refinery
  • A few units which have a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanism (est: 16 hours)
    • Infantry
      • Two types: rocket launchers and soldiers
    • Light unit (fast, trike/quad)
      • 1 or 2 types
    • Heavy unit (tank)
      • 1 or 2 types
  • A (random generated) map to play on (est: 4 hours)
  • A very simple AI to play against (est: 12 hours)
  • A clear objective (ie, destroy enemy) (est: 4 hours)
  • A beginning and ‘end’ of the game. (menu to start from, and ‘game won/lost’ screen). (est: 8 hours)

And I think if you really want to push it you can shave off some features. I believe the first step is to get ‘full circle’ as soon as possible. Meaning you have a concept of a game. It has a beginning and an end.

From here on I can expand scope to my ideal game. But not before I have done the two other important things.

Estimation: 64-80 hours (20% deviation)

Make my own graphics, sounds, …

The next important part is graphics, sounds, music, story, etc. As for graphics. At the moment I use Dune 2 graphics as placeholders. Once I have the game mechanics in place and I know which units/structures I need for the minimum version I can start creating/getting these. So in a way they are not required immediately, but they are required whenever I want to commercially release my own game.

Changing the graphics will have impact on some implementations for sure, although I do set up the code as flexible as possible, there are always cases that I have not thought about.

There is a caveat. Creating graphics is hard. It is not my primary skill. To tackle this I could:

  • learn to create my own (? hours)
  • find someone else who is willing to do graphics for me (0 hours, but $$$)
  • find premade graphics in a market place and use that (4 hours searching, and $$$)

The same logic can be applied to Sounds, possibly Music.

Estimation: 0 – 10.000 hours

Seriously: this is a risk and I need to decide which strategy to get a more reliable amount of hours.

Easily distributable & installable

Release early, release often. It is a phrase I use all the time when I am working at clients. The same goes for my game. There is a difference however. Usually I work on mid-large web applications. There is no need for customers to install anything to use the latest version of the website. When an organisation has implemented Continuous Deployment, it can easily deploy new versions at will. Customers automatically have the latest version upon a new visit of the website.

For applications that need to be installed there are several platforms out there. There is a reason why the concept of an ‘App store’ is famous. It delivers a web-like experience.

There is a lot to win here, the first step though is to make sure any user is able to download a distribution for their platform (Windows, Mac OS, Linux) and able to install the game. I already took the liberty of wanting to support these platforms. So yes, I target the PC platform. No mobile, game console, etc.

In that sense there are a few steps to be taken:

  1. Offer a distribution somewhere (website? distribution platform? need to figure out)
  2. Provide an easy installation procedure (how? install4j? etc)
  3. Provide an app-store like experience. (use a distribution platform like Steam?)

Estimation: 8-16 hours

Estimation is based on creating an installer.

When will it be done?

Ok great, so there is a lot to do. So when will all this be done?

Lets bring a few numbers together. The estimates and the available time.

Bringing the estimates together

I just take the hours from all 3 paragraphs above, and sum them.

Min: 64 + 0 + 8 = 72

Max: 80 + 0 + 16 = 96

(I purposely did not add the 10.000 hours from the graphics section, it seriously is way too unsure).

So basically, I am estimating that 72 to 96 hours should be enough. Meaning, given an 8 hour work day it would take 9 to 12 days to get a minimum version which is distributable in the easiest way. Without doing anything about graphics, sounds, etc. (using dune 2 graphics as ‘stub’)

Estimated time needed: 72 to 96 hours

This excludes graphics.

How much time do I have?

To calculate the amount of time I have realistically I also do a min/max calculation. The minimum amount being the amount I am 100% sure of I have. The max being added hours I probably can spend, but I should not count on it.

Minimum hours are easy. I have at least 8 hours a week (1 work day a week) to spend. And every 8 weeks I take a week off to spend even more time. This means in a period of 10 weeks I can spend 14 days.

The max would be weekly 0 to 8 hours more. I can spend a weekend sometimes, an evening, sometimes more evenings. It really depends on a lot of things.

I like to think in periods of 10 weeks, I consider a full 10 weeks as an ‘iteration’. When working on Magic Gatherers we used this mechanism and it worked out pretty well. Also, every iteration had a particular focus. The first iteration there was ‘from idea to launched product’ for instance. For this game it would be different of course.

One other aspect with time is ‘when should it be done?’. The easiest thing would be to use the iteration end-date. Considering that the first work-day is within this week, this week is counted as the first of the iteration. An iteration of 10 weeks will mean the end date is 29th of october.

Meaning:

End-date: 29th of october 2017

Time available: 14 days to 19 days (112 to 152 hours)

Looks like an easy feat!… oh wait, I have seen this before. This probably means I forgot something. Ah yes, the graphics… and so much more unknowns. Looks like it will be a close one.

So when will it be done?

Yes, good question, so in this case I choose to use the fixed-time flexible scope approach. Although I do know if the minimal scope is not met I will not launch the product. Then again, I really DO want to launch a product so I probably will be very harsh on the scope and just make it fit.

This brings me to another topic, priorities and goal. What do I try to achieve with releasing something at the end of iteration #1? I will elaborate on that in a different blog post.

Conclusion

It looks like it is feasible to get a minimalistic feature complete game done within the first iteration. That would mean at the 29th of october (latest) a downloadable and installable game should be available.

However, there are more things that need to be done that were not explicitly defined in overall 3 phases. You can think of, writing dev blogs, youtube video’s for demoing features, a monthly in-depth video for Patrons and so forth.

The only way to know is to just do it!

Kickstarting my dream! – building my own Real-Time-Strategy Game

My dream is to build my own games and make a living out of it. It is fairly obvious to me now, but at the same time I never dared to make it this explicit.

Once you decide to make work of your dreams, you get into some kind of planning stage. How am I going to build any game? What kind of game? And how do you find time? Practical stuff, dreamy stuff. There is so much needed to build a game, where to begin?

For me it is obvious I want to build an RTS game. I have fond memories of Dune 2, Command & Conquer and Warcraft. Those games got me into programming. No wonder I built Dunedit, Arrakis, Dune 2 – The Maker, and am still working on my own engine today. You could say: I have a strong desire to build my own RTS.

So what is needed to build a game on your own? Obviously you need practical skills, coding, graphics, sounds, music, etc. I’m convinced you can learn about anything – although that does not make you an expert at it. I can code, and I have some skill in music. And, if I can’t ‘create’ it myself, there are various resources out there…

Then the next question is, when am I going to build this? It requires some serious time. How am I going to make time for this? Especially if you have a family, work, etc.

The answer to that is, you ‘make’ time. My experience with working on Magic Gatherers is that I can at least free up 1 day a week and every 8/9 weeks 5 days. Freeing up means basically taking unpaid leave.

This means, over a period of 10 weeks, I can allocate 14 days. A full two weeks of time I can spend on my own stuff: 10 ‘day a week’ + 4 extra days (the 5 day week).

As a freelancer I can more easily free up time, but it also means I need to watch my cash-flow and be sure that my family can rely on a sort of steady income. This is my starting point, from here I want to free up more time (but I need preparation for that).

In the meantime, given that I know my time I can spend on the game for this year, it becomes obvious that I have to prioritize the things to do. This is related to goals, which I will talk about in a later post.

If you want to follow my progress, and get a more indepth view of what I encounter while working towards my dream, follow (or support) me on patreon.

Magic Gatherers looking for Beta testers!

Do you play Magic The Gathering? Do you want to keep track of your games (win/lose ratio)? Perhaps want to know which deck was used? How about finding new players to play against or organize your own Tournament?

Sounds awesome right!?

Thats something I am working on right now with 2 other guys.

We play MTG and we believe it should be a social and fun happening. Anything technical should be supportive, be as less intrusive but supporting you where possible.

To do that we’re building an application that can do the following:

  • keep track of your matches, which deck did you play with against whom and did you win/lose?
  • easy way to find other people to play against (duels, a Tournament, etc)
  • easy Tournament organisation. Set up a Tournament yourself, or join one easily.
  • have fun achievements along the way
  • If you’re interested, head over to our website and subscribe to our mail list to get invited to the first version of the app asap!

    Perhaps you have some ideas on your own? Don’t hesitate to share them. Either via email, or comment on this reddit post.

    Integration testing your Asp .Net Core App – Dealing with Anti Request Forgery (CSRF), Form Data and Cookies

    1. Integration testing your asp .net core app with an in memory database
    2. Integration testing your asp .net core app dealing with anti request forgery csrf formdata and cookies (this)

    This post can be considered a sequel to Setting up integration testing in Asp.Net Core. It builds upon some code provided there.

    Running Integration Tests are awesome. (Be mindful though: They Are A Scam as well).

    So great, you got it up and running. And you probably will run into a few (practical) things when dealing with a bit more useful scenario’s. In this case I describe visiting a page (GET) and POSTing a form. Also we deal with the case when you have set up Anti Request Forgery.

    I will give you a few hints of code. For your convenience I have also put them up as Github Gists.

    Disclaimer about the presented code:
    I have come to this code after some investigation, but I lost track of what source lead to what piece of code. So if you are (or know) the source of pieces of code, please notify me and I will give credits where credits are due.

    Now we have that out of the way, lets get started!

    Context – some example code

    To explain things easier, lets say you have a GET and POST action defined (for same URL). The GET delivers a view with a form; in your integration test you want to do a POST to the same URL as if the user filled in the form. (Since we’re not UI testing, we don’t care about the HTML – no need to play browser here).

    In our example, lets say we have some code like this:

    // GET request to awesomesauce
    [Route("awesomesauce")]
    public async Task<ActionResult> AwesomeSauce()
    {
    	var model = new MyAwesomeModel();
    	return View(model);
    }
    
    
    // POST request to awesomesauce
    [HttpPost, Route("awesomesauce"), ValidateAntiForgeryToken]
    public async Task<IActionResult> AwesomeSauce(MyAwesomeModel myAwesomeModel)
    {
    	// if valid, do stuff
    	
    	// else...
    	return View(myAwesomeModel);
    }
    

    Your integration test would look like this:

    
    [Collection("Integration tests collection")]
    public class AwesomeSauceTest : AbstractControllerIntegrationTest
    {
    	public AwesomeSauceTest(TestServerFixture testServerFixture) : base(testServerFixture)
    	{
    	}
    
    	[Fact]
    	public async Task Visits_AwesomeSauce_And_Posts_Data()
    	{
    		var response = await client.GetAsync("/awesomesauce");
    		response.EnsureSuccessStatusCode();
    
    		// How do we do this? Send data (POST) - with anti request forgery token and all?... lets find out!
    		//var response = await client.SendAsync(requestMessage);
    	}
    }
    

    In the test we marked our questions. How do we post data? And how do send this AntiRequestForgery token?

    Lets begin with POSTing data. In a convenient world I would like to present a Dictionary with keys and values, then simply pass that as method BODY and let some helper method transform that into a true HttpRequest message. I made such a thing my own, it looks like this:

    With the PostRequestHelper we can now POST data like so:

    public class AwesomeSauceTest : AbstractControllerIntegrationTest
    {
    	public AwesomeSauceTest(TestServerFixture testServerFixture) : base(testServerFixture)
    	{
    	}
    
    	[Fact]
    	public async Task Visits_AwesomeSauce_And_Posts_Data()
    	{
    		var response = await client.GetAsync("/awesomesauce");
    		response.EnsureSuccessStatusCode();
    
    		var formPostBodyData = new Dictionary<string, string>
    			{
    				{"Awesomesauce.Foo", "Bar"},
    				{"Awesomesauce.AnotherKey", "Baz"},
    				{"Any_Other_Form_Key", "Any_Other_Value"}
    			};
    
    		var requestMessage = PostRequestHelper.Create("/awesomesauce", formPostBodyData);
    
    		// TODO: AntiRequestForgery token
    
    		var response = await client.SendAsync(requestMessage);
    
    		// Assert
    	}
    }
    

    Well that is easy isn’t it?

    If you paid attention you already saw a hint in the PostRequestHelper about a CookiesHelper. Although it is not needed to deal with AntiRequestForgery, it is a handy tool. I’ll explain it below.

    Dealing with the AntiRequestForgery token

    In general it is easy, you do a GET, in its response you receive a token. You need to extract that token and put that token on your next POST request and you’re done.

    To extract the token, you can use this:

    Now we can use it in our test like so:

    public class AwesomeSauceTest : AbstractControllerIntegrationTest
    {
    	public AwesomeSauceTest(TestServerFixture testServerFixture) : base(testServerFixture)
    	{
    	}
    
    	[Fact]
    	public async Task Visits_AwesomeSauce_And_Posts_Data()
    	{
    		var response = await client.GetAsync("/awesomesauce");
    		response.EnsureSuccessStatusCode();
    
    		string antiForgeryToken = await AntiForgeryHelper.ExtractAntiForgeryToken(response);
    
    		var formPostBodyData = new Dictionary<string, string>
    			{
    				{"__RequestVerificationToken", antiForgeryToken}, // Add token
    				{"Awesomesauce.Foo", "Bar"},
    				{"Awesomesauce.AnotherKey", "Baz"},
    				{"Any_Other_Form_Key", "Any_Other_Value"}
    			};
    
    		var requestMessage = PostRequestHelper.Create("/awesomesauce", formPostBodyData);
    
    		var response = await client.SendAsync(requestMessage);
    
    		// Assert
    	}
    }
    

    And voila, you can now do a POST request which will pass the token and make the POST happen. By omitting the token you can test if your action is protected by CSRF (or using a different token). Although I would not try to test the framework itself, I would advice to have tests in place that make sure specific controller actions are protected.

    Dealing with Cookies

    As bonus, lets deal with Cookies. You need to deal with those probably. Sometimes you need to post the data again (as if you are a real browser). In that case to make life easier there is a method on the PostRequestHelper called CreateWithCookiesFromResponse. This basically creates a POST request, and copies over your cookies from a (previous) GET request.

    The CookiesHelper looks like this:

    In our example test above, we could have used it like this:

    public class AwesomeSauceTest : AbstractControllerIntegrationTest
    {
    	public AwesomeSauceTest(TestServerFixture testServerFixture) : base(testServerFixture)
    	{
    	}
    
    	[Fact]
    	public async Task Visits_AwesomeSauce_And_Posts_Data()
    	{
    		var response = await client.GetAsync("/awesomesauce"); // this returns cookies in response
    		response.EnsureSuccessStatusCode();
    
    		string antiForgeryToken = await AntiForgeryHelper.ExtractAntiForgeryToken(response);
    
    		var formPostBodyData = new Dictionary<string, string>
    			{
    				{"__RequestVerificationToken", antiForgeryToken}, // Add token
    				{"Awesomesauce.Foo", "Bar"},
    				{"Awesomesauce.AnotherKey", "Baz"},
    				{"Any_Other_Form_Key", "Any_Other_Value"}
    			};
    
    		// Copy cookies from response
    		var requestMessage = PostRequestHelper.CreateWithCookiesFromResponse("/awesomesauce", formPostBodyData, response);
    
    		var response = await client.SendAsync(requestMessage);
    
    		// Assert
    	}
    }
    

    Conclusion

    After we have set up integration testing we want to get to do some basic interactions with our application. Using an AntiRequestForgeryHelper we can extract a token. Using the PostRequestHelper we can construct a new Request to easily send over a request. Combined they can make any scenario work with CSRF protection.

    In case you need to pass over cookies information you can use the CookiesHelper.