Tools of the trade
Want to know what we use to recreate Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monks' Revenge? I thought I'd take the time to show you a comprehensive list of items and the reasoning behind it.
Both my brother and I use a HP Z1 Workstation (the original model, not the G2 refresh) as our sole machine. It's a perfect all-rounder that takes up minimal desk space and is quiet. Very quiet. Excluding the proper IEC standard power cord and a Cat6 LAN cable, there is no cable clutter.
HP Z1 workstation
I do a lot of programming that doesn't require a ridiculous setup but when required, the Z1 can handle anything thrown at it. A lot people may think AIOs are rubbish but they're perfect for what they're designed for. The ability to easily upgrade without breaking the warranty via the hydraulic lid is also a winner.
Our Z1 specs are:
- Intel i5-3470S CPU
- 8GB RAM
- Intel 530 240GB SSD drive
- Windows 10
- NVIDIA 980M MXM GPU for non Mad Monks' programming;
- Doom III using OpenCoop
- Crysis 1/Warhead/2/ 3
- Far Cry 1/2/3/4
- Wolfenstien/New Order
- StarCraft II
You can see more of the innards via iFixIt's teardown.
I primarliy make backups to my Synology DS212J NAS. My brother keeps his on several dozen USB sticks, his primary backup being C3PO.
Programming language + Graphics
C# and Visual Basic.NET (for support tools) via Visual Studio Community Edition 2017.
FNA is used for the graphics engine replacing Microsoft XNA (obsolete) and MonoGame. FNA is based on SDL2 and works with Windows, Linux and Mac.
Video recording + editing and sound
I started off using Fraps like most do and it works well. The only issue I have with it is even a 20 second video is 200+ megabytes and you need a tool like FreeMake to compress it down to a sensible size (which doesn't work on my Win10 setup). Enter Bandicam (or Bandicoot as I call it) - you can choose different codecs and video quality and it works well. Both Fraps and BandiCam cost around $45 Australian dollars so if you have to choose, I'd definitely consider BandiCam.
All the videos on my YouTube channel were recorded with BandiCoot. Videos are squished using FFmpeg (free).
To match all of the animations, especially player behaviour as close as possible, I load the videos made by BandiCam into VirtualDub. VirtualDub is a great little programme that allows me to step through the video frame by frame and zoom into them - that is solely what I use it for but it has loads more features. VirtualDub is free to use and the code is available under GPL licence via SourceForge.
GoldWave for analyzing and editing sounds. GoldWave was also used to extract the sound effects from the Mad Monks' Revenge video cut-scenes into the Presage format and rip the CD audio into OGG format. Starting at US$15, GoldWave is a bargain and must-have tool.
MS Paint. It's simple and works perfectly. The only downside is there are no options to specify the image quality when saving which means you can easily end up with a 5 megabyte PNG.
If any mock-ups with transparency is required, I use Paint.NET (an excellent example of what the .NET Framework can do).
For the larger side-by-side GIFs on this blog, I use the free online tool GifMaker.Me and GifMaker Resize to make smaller GIFs. It has pretty much all you need to make GIFs from images and is a perfect replacement (albeit with fewer options) than the old Microsoft tool from the early-mid '90s (came with Office up to 2000, I think). Most other GIFs are created using VirtualDub.
All PNGs uploaded to this site are squished with PNG Gauntlet by Ben Hollis.
I use Ghost as the blogging platform with a modified version of Seth Lilly's Vapor theme. The theme was modified first using the Developer Tools in MS Internet Explorer (F12), then when happy, copied to Visual Studio before saving and uploading.
The contact form is powered by Formspree.
Emails are provided by Rackspace US.
Downloads are stored on Microsoft Azure and storage accessed locally via Microsoft Azure Storage Explorer.
MS Notepad and Microsoft Office. Notepad is basic, simple and all I need and I use Office for when basic text won't cut it.
For TODO notes and titbits, I have a text file inside the project solution in Visual Studio - very basic but it works for me.
Beverages are powered by Tetley. I like their 'Extra Strong' black tea. A standout feature of the tea for me is the bags: not only is the tea nice and strong but the bags themselves. How many tea bags have you had explode when the hot water hits them or cups with all the leafs sitting on the bottom? Tetley bags are super strong. I've never had one burst yet.