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September 25, 2012 / sguergachi

Developer Diary #16

Hello everyone, long time no see 🙂

We’ve been hard at work on the latest version of Aurora which has been released today.

Alpha 3 contains 2 major features and a bunch of small little changes. Today I’ll be talking mostly about the major features as well as what we have planed next.

The first major feature that some of you may notice right away is better UI scaling. This has long been a problem with Aurora due to the nature of the custom UI we have implemented I blame my self for not implementing a robust resalable UI from the beginning, and that has hurt us in some ways.

The UI in Aurora in the beginning has mostly been fixed, hardcoded values for each element, as time went by I made an effort to make the UI work better for smaller screens, especially laptops by having Aurora check your screen size and if it was below a certain size it would use a separate set of fixed variables optimized for a laptop I have at home. The problem however as you can imagine still stuck, mostly for screens with wider aspect ratios and screens of even smaller size to the 17” laptop I have here at home. I have never had the opportunity to actually learn or understand how using relative values to proportionally rescale the UI actually works.

In this release I’ve made another effort to improve UI scaling by using values relative to the screen size and tested each change on 4 separate resolutions. As you can imagine this took quite some time, and honestly I’m still not super happy with the result. This was done entirely with trial and error and in some cases some UI elements may look weird. In addition I did not spend any time with the UI of the Profile or the Settings since we plan on revamping it completely.

The next major feature we are introducing in this release isBetter Navigation in the Game Library. This feature is something we believe is really necessary for PC Gamers and Carlos has been working on it for a while making sure it works perfectly. Implementing a proper Keyboard and Mouse navigation feature is very important to us. We think we have made some pretty interesting advances in this area some of you may really like that I don’t think I’ve seen done in any application really.

First of all we allow you to navigate the Game Library in 3 separate ways.

The first way is with the trusty Mouse: You can of course use the mouse and interact with the UI as you would normally by selecting games and moving right by simply Hovering over the right and left green arrows in the library. We have however, added the ability to scroll in between grids using your scroll wheel which makes navigating through a long list of games pretty easy.

The second way is using the Keyboard via Arrow Keys: You can, as soon as the Library is loaded press the arrow key Left or Down and the upper left game will be selected. From there you can keep navigating as you will. They way we’ve set up navigation via Keyboard is you have to reach the lower right game and move right to go to the next grid. Its pretty simple and holding down any arrow key will move the cursor towards that direction indefinitely, so you don’t have to keep pressing every time you want to move if you don’t want to . its pretty slick, fast and does what you expect it to do.

The third way is also using the Keyboard however you can navigate using the WASD keys. This is an idea I suggested to Carlos as a nice way to bring PC gaming aspects to Aurora. Basically WASD works just like the arrow keys. However because of the Mouse Scroll Wheel navigation we’ve implemented you can navigate our Game Library as if you where Playing an FPS game. One had on the mouse, and another on the WASD keys and you have found the best way to navigate the Aurora Game Library. You just scroll to the grid you want and then select the game you want  to Play by pressing the ENTER key. Simple.

Now, you may notice that WASD does not activate the instant search, but other keys do. This was done on purpose, in the final version you will be able to select the WASD feature from the Settings page and it will probably be off by default.

Other then these two features, I’ve made some small improvements to Aurora Mini(mize), added 50 more games to the CoverDB and some other small internal things.

Now, lets talk about the future. In the past few month both me and Carlos have been away from Aurora for sometime, enough time for us not to remember where everything is in the codebase. And considering we don’t practice very good hygiene in our code, it hasn’t been easy getting back into it and make these changes. As new developers we are continuously learning, and having a clean codebase is one of these lessons we are painfully learning our selves. There is a lack of both structure as well as inherent commenting and flow to our code. I want to fix this before we make anymore advances.

Project Clean Up. We are about to embark in a mission to clean up the code, revisit everything, comment everything. We are also moving to GitHub a bigger Open Source community which should help motivate us to keep pushing. This also means we will move to Git version control system, which I’ve been told is way better then SVN which has admittedly been causing us a lot of problems internally with regards to conflict handling ect. We also have many improvements to the Aurora Engine that I have personally been working on separately. It will take some time to merge the current Aurora engine with the new and improved one.

This will take sometime, and wont be much fun for us. But I think its desperately needed. It will improve the overall quality of Aurora, it will help us release more stuff faster ect.

I hope you are all as excited as I am!

See you soon,

-Sammy

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