Project #3: IntelliWriter Update

A dictionary and 79 epubs walk into a bar…

IntelliWriter Logo

Word Suggestion Engine

This was the major theme of the first half of the work so far. After spending a few hours crawling the interwebs for someone who has done this in an open-source, information should be free, hack-the-planet kind of way, I gave up a decided I needed to do it myself. I took a hint from an old friend, Markov chains.  I needed an engine that when given a word, it would spit out a list of words that would most-likely come next. In this scenario, Markov chains basically say ignore everything but the word that comes before it and that works pretty well.

So! I grabbed a pile of almost 80 fiction books in epub format and wrote an analysis tool that calculates for any given word, what are the most likely words to come after it. Filter all those words with actual words from a fully resolved Open Office dictionary (which was a bit of a project on its own)…and done!

Here’s how we are looking so far:


Look good? I think it looks pretty good. The word recommendations are normally pretty close if not spot-on for this passage. There’s no tab-completion yet, which is really the linchpin to see if this little experiment is actually useful. Better get back to work!

The task list as it stands today, for posterity:



Project #2: Alpha Release

Mars Commander Good Enough

“As your nation’s most technologically advanced accomplishment, the HUB, lands on the surface of Mars, millions of your fellow citizens cheer. As another nation’s most technologically advanced accomplishment, their HUB, lands on the surface of Mars, a million of their fellow citizens also cheer. Find a partner to face-off and claim this planet of resources for your own and remove all foreign threats.”

Done! Okay, not “done” in the classic sense of the word, but done enough for alpha testing (i.e. “Is this even fun?” and “Arrr, thar be bugs”). It works best on a Windows 8.1 tablet with two human players. Each player starts with a HUB and the goal of the game is to destroy your opponents first HUB.

The six units included in this alpha release are:

  1. HUB – The Hub is your primary unit and the only unit that can create and throw other units. Each time you throw out a new unit, you are unable to use the Hub for some amount of time (3-20 seconds, depending on the last unit thrown). The new units will also need a few seconds to charge once they get deployed.
  2. EYE – The eye let’s you see a great distance but can be easily destroyed.
  3. AA. This is your anti-air unit and will fire a tracking missile out if anything gets close it.
  4. BMB. The bomb is the cheapest to use but the hardest to aim. It packs a wallop if you can get a direct hit.
  5. MSL. This missile is expensive to use and doesn’t hit as hard as the bomb, but it will find a target and launch itself directly at it.
  6. CRW. Oh man, the crawler is dangerous. Put this kid on the ground and she’ll crawl forward until she hits something – then BLAMMO.

Here’s some gameplay of the using all of the units. You’ll see I missed with the crawler (the red circle) so I had to throw a bomb at it to make it go off. As with the previous video, I’m using the mouse just so you can see where you would normally touch.


Installing a Windows Store App without the Windows Store

Since the Windows 8 store doesn’t currently support closed/hidden/beta releases (but the Windows Phone store does – weird), you can download the app package directly. Installing takes a couple extra steps but we’re all about learning new stuff here. Here’s something new! In the app development world we call the act of installing an application from outside a sanctioned marketplace (e.g. Windows Store, iOS App Store, Google Play) “Side-loading”. It’s inconvenient on purpose since your eschewing all of the protections you would normally get when you install from an app store.

I tried real hard to keep all the viruses and information stealing malware out of my alpha game, but let be known that I make no guarantees and you should install this package at your own risk and all that.

How to install Mars Commander Alpha on your Windows 8.1 device:

  1. Download the app package from here: Mars Commander Alpha for Windows 8.1.
  2. Extract the file somewhere.
  3. Right-click on the file MarsCommander_Win8_1.1.0.1_AnyCPU.cer and select Install Certificate.
  4. The Certificate Import Wizard will open.  Select the Current User store location and click Next.
  5. Select Automatically select the certificate store… and click Next.
  6. Click Finish and then OK when the install completes.
  7. Open PowerShell and change directory to where you extracted the files.
  8. Run “import-module appx”.
  9. Run “add-appxpackage MarsCommander_Win8_1.1.0.1_AnyCPU.appx”.
  10. Some stuff should blip on your screen while it installs and if there are no errors you should see Mars Commander in your app list! Huzzah!

(Thanks again to Matthew for trying to warn me ahead of time that I was going to go way over 24 hours on this one (he was right) and being a constant source of support and design advice.)

Project #2: Mars Commander 32 (ahem) hour update

Mars Commander Bettererer

It’s fun!

Today on Project Update: a demo video! I have most of the Hub unit’s functionality completed as well as basic unit-to-unit connections. I use a mouse for the video below so you can see where I’m clicking, but the multi-touch testing seems to work just as well. I waited until I had just enough stuff implemented to see if it was fun (read: throwing new units and blowing them up) before doing an update. It’s fun! Well, I think it’s fun, but I am…biased.


To review, the screen is split in half with a player on the left (green) and a player on the right (blue). Ideally, this would be played on a tablet flat on a table with players facing each other. When first touching a Hub you’ll see an interface come up to select which unit to throw. The only units implemented right now are the Hub (top left) and the Bomb(bottom left). There’s also the Eye (top, second from the left) which is meant to expose areas of the field, but since there isn’t a fog-of-war yet, it doesn’t do much. After selecting a unit you’ll get to aim the throw and then launch the unit using a press-and-hold style. Each unit is connected to the unit that threw it with a string of little connectors.

In the interest of time, I disabled the cool-down after launching a Hub. Normally a Hub would not be able to launch another unit immediately after a launch and would have to wait about 30 seconds (you’ll see a short cool-down when you see the Hubs throw an Eye in the video).

Here’s how the task list is shaping up

Project2 Task List Update 2

Project #1: Who Goes First? 12 Hour Update

The Who Goes First? project hit 12.5 hours a few days ago which means it is time for a status report! The primary mechanics and flow are all completed and I have even had a few chances to try it out on some board gaming friends of mine. They had some minor feedback but all-in-all it looks to be something that isn’t insulting to the world at large.

It might look a little strange on an upright monitor since it is designed to be flat on a table with people sitting all around it, but you get the gist. The two major items left are a start screen (at least abstractly speaking) and audio. After that, the whole thing feels aesthetic flat so I’ll move on to trying to add some depth with the background and possible the foreground’s visual assets.

Construct2, by the way, is great! I feel like I have only scratched the surface on how to properly work within the tool. I’m sure I’m not doing state management in a reasonable way, but I must doing it partially alright since I’m not hating life this far into using it.

Who Goes First Construct2 Screenshot

Lastly, I spent a little time exporting the project to HTML5, Window 8, and Windows Phone 8 without much trouble. The next stop will be Android, Amazon, and…iOS, which I only preface with ellipsis because there are a bazillion (okay, four) different ways to get a Construct2 project onto Apple products. Also, not having an Apple product makes evaluating them difficult.

Next update should (hopefully) be a release!