Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Torque X Boot Camp, Day -1

Aspiring game developers among you will be aware that Torque is an incredible game engine that is available for newbies to learn the ropes of game programming, so to speak. Garage Games are holding a Boot Camp for teachers tomorrow at SMU's Guildhall for the upcoming Torque X, a version of Torque for Microsoft's XNA Express.

My first thought was that it's a little elitist. They're holding it at the Guildhall, which right away is an elite institution, charging upwards of $30K per year for a game development diploma. But at least it's pretty centrally located in Dallas, and it's a venue that adds a little pizazz to the event. Garage Games are charging $750 for the Boot Camp, $600 if you register early. On the face of it that's pretty damn good value for 3 days of training, but at my institution (which unlike Guildhall charges students $3K per year) if I have that kind of money I usually have more pressing things to spend it on rather than personal training. RTFM is free, after all. Fortunately, Davey Jackson was kind enough to let me attend for free if I write a review and give them pointers on how to improve the presentation.

I'm all over that like a rash. Thank you!

So far I'm not exactly a happy camper. Yesterday I received an email asking me to bring a laptop (no problemo) and to have pre-installed on it:

1. MS XNA 1.0 Refresh (Note: Torque X is not currently compatible with XNA 2.0, you must have the 1.0 Refresh build available on MSDN)
2. Visual C# 2005 Express (or other Visual C# compatible with MS XNA)
3. SP1 for Visual C#
4. Torque X
5. Torque X Builder (Full or Demo version)
6. Torque X 3d Beta

Right away I run into problems. Visual C# 2005 Express is no longer available. When MS released Visual C# 2008 Express they pulled all the 2005 copies off the web. So I download the 2008 version, but of course XNA 1.0 won't install with it.

I search (or rather, I have a grad student search) the computers in my lab for a cached version of the installer for Visual C# Express 2005, but they're all gone, thanks to Murphy I guess.

Unfazed, I drop the problem in Davey's lap and go to get the Torque downloads. I'm annoyed to find that they want me to create an account there - one more damn username and password to remember. Next I get given an activation key to save for later. One more annoyance. I get the installer, attempt to run it, and I'm damned if it doesnt fail because I don't have Visual C# Express 2005 installed.

Grrrrr.

So, I have two pieces of advice for the folks at Garage Games.

1. Don't make your classes depend on software that is unavailable.
2. If you do, don't notify your audience that they need it two days before class.

I'm assuming that these are easily-fixed bugs though, in spite of a certain amount of gritted teeth and raised blood pressure here. In subsequent versions of this Boot Camp I'm sure they'll have all their ducks in a row software-wise. Not to worry.

Fortunately I got a response from Josef Rogovsky from Garage Games within the hour. There's a version of Visual C# Express 2005 on the XNA Creators Club website: http://creators.xna.com/Resources/Essentials.aspx. Progress!

Turns out I should have just installed TorqueX 3D. It includes the other two. Duh. Uninstall Torque X, install Torque X 3D. Ready to rock and roll.

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