Sunday, February 26, 2012

Episode 5 - Input/Output

Accelerometer... cool in theory, ok-ish in practice

I'm implementing basic game input control, so I needed simple tilt values. Android supports this through a rather heavy handed interface called SensorManager and a couple of SensorEvents providing you with such information as acceleration forces and geomagnetic field information, from which a rotation matrix can be deduced. Extracting the right column from that rotation matrix will then yield the tilt.

Which is all nice and dandy, but with such an advanced and complex API I'd expect the sensor output to be phenomenal... and it simply isn't.The accuracy and response times are a disappointment. Disclaimer: I am working on the assumption that my Samsung Galaxy SII is representative of most of the hardware that is currently out there.

Ah well, that just means that direct rotational control (anyone remember the paddles on the C64?) is out of the question, so now I've opted for tilt-controlled velocity. Cool.

Android and SOAP ... not so clean

The de facto standard library for handling SOAP in Android is KSoap 2 (I'd advise using the -android branch from the link, as it is actively maintained). And while it is a pretty extensive library (all due respect to the contributors to this the project!), it most definitely lacks in the ways of KISS.

If you come from a .NET background, or any other platform where SOAP is a serious player (we have run our own custom implementation in Delphi), the thing just reeks of a lack of abstraction. If I just want to make a simple remote call, I sure don't want to be instantiating an "envelope" object (really, I don't want to know). On the other hand, if I do care about soap intrinsics, I sure don't want to get the response back as a property of that same envelope... That's just wrong. But enough ranting, it gets the job done.

I more or less hit a roadblock then, as I discovered doing (Windows 2008 compatible) NTLM authentication isn't exactly trivial, and lots of existing Android/Java projects seem to think it's ok to simply drop support for it anyway because it is deprecated (Kerberos is superior anyway, etc). Hello? People living inside a glass box? There are millions and millions of Windows (business!) users on NTLM networks.... I'm sure they wouldn't mind using their android devices to access their stuff.

Oh well, I guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and modify KSoap 2 a bit to hack the necessary support in. Unfortunately, this is all just a side-project, so it might be a while before I get around to it.


 - Have been tweaking the camera controls of our Board Game Machine project a bit. It's funny how low frame rates (still on the to-do list) can sometimes make it hard to judge whether your implementation is actually correct.

- Added activity switching and a single option screen (input through touch or accelerometer) to the Android game.

- The barebones Android game engine now has automatic texture reloading on surface change. No rocket science, but the textures disappearing was getting kind of annoying.

This is what lost textures look like. It's not pretty.

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