Monday, November 3, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pygame Virtual Controller Update

I worked with my son for about 2 hours today on the Pygame virtual controller for Android.   The main challenge with the controller is the use of sine, cosine, and tangent.  Although we all learn trigonometry in school, how often do you use it?  Outside of making games, I never use it.

Another challenge is getting comfortable with sprites and sprite groups for the bullets.  Since the bullets are simple, we could easily make the game without sprites.  It's possible to use rectangles stored in lists.  Sprites have a number of advantages over rectangles.  I like to use sprites because its a concise way to organize all the bullets into a single sprite group and then use bullet_group.update() and bullet_group.draw() to manage all the bullets on the screen.

The first time you type in a sprite class, it looks a bit odd.  I think the oddness of the line pygame.sprite.Sprite.__init__(self) makes the sprite more intimidating than it really is.



class Bullet(pygame.sprite.Sprite):
    def __init__(self):
        pygame.sprite.Sprite.__init__(self)
        self.image = pygame.Surface((6,6))
        self.rect = self.image.get_rect()



After getting the bullets to fire properly with sprite groups, the next challenge was to get the player to move around the screen with a secondary virtual controller.  Although we built the code to calculate the angle of the controller for firing in the previous lesson, the player wasn't moving.  Once the player starts moving, the angle needs to be calculated from the center point of the player.  The modification to the code is minimal, but the conceptual leap of thinking of the opposite, adjacent and hypotenuse sides can be daunting when the triangle is moving all around the screen.  

Once you get the angle and the center, the code to move the player is straightforward.

def move(angle, center):
    hypotenuse = 10.0
    adjacent = math.cos(angle) * hypotenuse
    x = int(adjacent + center[0])
    opposite = math.sin(angle) * hypotenuse
    y = int(center[1] - opposite)
    return ((x, y))
At the end of the lesson, he had a working app with 360 degree firing and movement.

The next step is to get this working on his accelerometer game.  We're bumping up into the limitations of single-point touch and are trying to use the accelerometer for movement.  It's easy to access the Android accelerometer, but it's uncertain how playable the game will be.  We're using Cube Runner as a model for playability.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dart and StageXL Versus Python and Pygame for Teaching Children

I've used Python, Pygame, and pgs4a for several years.  I've been using Dart and StageXL for less than a month.  So far, I like Dart more than Javascript, Ruby, or Java.  The combination of Dart and StageXL is more friendly than Kivy.

Python and Pygame are completely different from Dart and StageXL.  This is okay with me as I'm focused on teaching children to program.  I'm not concerned about the end product.  The main criteria is what is a good language to teach programming concepts and what will keep their interest.

With this criteria in mind, I'll give my opinion.  Python and Pygame is the easiest path.  As proof of how easy it is to learn, my 9 year daughter can create games with Pygame using the PyCharm IDE and starting with a blank screen.  This is not unusual.  She's also learning Python at school in the 4th grade.  However, she's focused on turtle, not Pygame at school.   At home, she uses Pygame.  She can get through the lessons thanks to the awesome code completion of PyCharm.

My son can build complex apps on the Android phone with Python, Pygame and pgs4a.  He's actually pushing some of the limits of this stack and encountering known bugs.  I don't want to list all the bugs with pgs4a on Android, but from looking at StackOverflow and the questions I get by email, I know that multiple people are having problem with the sound mixer causing slowdown of the main while loop in some circumstances.  There are screen resizing problems on the Moto-G.  The lack of multi-point touch is causing a lot of usability problems for many people.

Although we looked at Kivy to solve some of these problems, I also evaluated Dart as a teaching alternative.  So far, I like it quite a bit.   This StageXL cookbook is quite fun.  Dart also has these cool Polymer.dart and AngularDart pieces.  There's info to get the Dart app running on Android as a web app.  I'm sure all of these will get better.

I'm planning to move to Dart as the basis for future curriculum for my son.  There's some downsides compared to Python.
  • The Dart Editor is pretty cool, but it doesn't do split-screen.  I can't view the same file in two windows at the same time.
  • PyCharm Pro can handle Dart, but it's not as smooth as the Dart Editor
  • The debug info of the Dart Editor is confusing
  • There's less Dart documentation geared for children.   There's a ton of Python information designed specifically for kids
  • Python and Pygame is easier.  
    • You can run everything in a single block of code without any functions or classes.  You can then go back and organize the code into classes when the kid gets it running.
    • You've got to deal with HTML, CSS in addition to Dart
  • The student may spend more of their time with HTML and CSS instead of learning programming concepts.  Tweaking the visual design of the app with HTML and CSS is more accessible and more rewarding than dealing with lists, parsing, and classes.   Designing the interface is not the purpose of these lessons.  The goal is to learn about data structures, classes, methods, functions, types.
  • Using the Python console or iPython is pretty awesome.  
Although I've been going fairly light on design, I think it's time to incorporate more design elements into his games.

There are many advantages to Dart:

  • The optional typing is really nice to isolate errors, especially for teaching purposes.
  • It returns a floating point if you do something like 1/3.  Python 2.7 will return 0.  Python 3.4 will return 0.33333, which is what you expect.  pgs4a will only work with Python 2.7.
  • Dart can be used on the server and the browser.  It also feels natural to do this.
  • Building Python strings with "string_here {}".format(var)  isn't as nice as Dart's "string_here$var"
  • Dart has this quick little "assert" statement to check for errors.
  • The graphics and UI components are pretty awesome on Dart.  With Pygame/pgsa, the only GUI toolkit I got to work was SGC and it was still a bit funky with things like text input on the phone.  My son was starting to waste a lot of time building his own button widgets.   Pygame is really designed for games.  It's not that great with the buttons, menus, text.  It's usable, but I think my son is ready for more UI work
  • The huge advantage to Dart is the distribution mechanism.  The Android apk file produced by pgs4a is big.  While it can be put into the Google Play store, it's a bit of a hassle, so much so that he's never put it into Google Play.  Also, his friends can't play the game on their iPhone, which is still in use by about half the teenagers.  He's still at the stage of only sharing games with friends and family, but I'm hoping that a web app will make it easier.


Fun and fast little exercises.






import 'dart:html' as html;
import 'package:stagexl/stagexl.dart';
import 'dart:math';

void main() {
  makeCanvas("4");
  html.querySelector("#button").onClick.listen(grabSize);
}

void makeCanvas(var radius){
  var canvas = html.querySelector('#stage');
  var stage = new Stage(canvas);
  var renderLoop = new RenderLoop();
  renderLoop.addStage(stage);

  List shapes = new List();
  var c_color = Color.Black;
  
  var rad = int.parse(radius);
  rad = rad * 4;
  print("the radius is $rad");

  
  for (int i = 50; i < 800; i= i + 50){
  
    for (int y = 50; y < 600; y = y +50){
      var r = new Random();
      int r_dec = r.nextInt(255);
      var r_g = new Random();
      int g_dec = r_g.nextInt(255);
      var b = new Random();
      int b_dec = b.nextInt(255);
      String a_hex_str = 255.toRadixString(16);
      String r_hex_str = r_dec.toRadixString(16);
      String g_hex_str = g_dec.toRadixString(16);
      String b_hex_str = b_dec.toRadixString(16);
      String col_hex = ('0x$a_hex_str$r_hex_str$g_hex_str$b_hex_str');
      int col = int.parse(col_hex);
      var circ = new Shape();
      circ.graphics.circle(i,  y,  rad);
      circ.graphics.fillColor(col);
      shapes.add(circ);

    }
  }
  
  for (var my_shape in shapes){
    stage.addChild(my_shape);
  }
}

void grabSize(html.MouseEvent event) {
  String the_name = (html.querySelector("#name_box") as html.InputElement).value;
  the_name = the_name.toUpperCase();
  html.querySelector("#name").text = the_name;
  String n_radius = (html.querySelector("#name").text);
  print(n_radius);
  makeCanvas(n_radius);
}


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Virtual Controller Angle Tutorial


This is part of an educational curriculum to teach 9th and 10th grade students how to build mobile games on Android. The student needs to be familiar with trigonometry. The primary target student is in 10th grade.
There are two examples. The main lesson is in main.py and focuses on the getting the angle from the virtual controller. The second lesson is in bullet.py and shows how to fire bullets from a moving player. There is sound generated each time a bullet is fired.
Here's a video snippet showing the 360 degree movement and independent firing.
Screen shot of virtual controller with bullets
Additional sounds can be downloaded from SoundBible.
Since the player is moving, I also implemented a rudimentary bounds detection so that the player doesn't move off the screen.

Create the Controller

In this lesson, the controller is a circle of radius 50. The main objective is to calculate the angle of the player's right thumb in relation to the center of the circle. Since we're running this on a desktop computer before loading it onto an Android phone, the mouse will represent the point the thumb touches the screen.
 pygame.draw.circle(SCREEN, RED, v_control.center, 50, 2)
 pygame.draw.circle(SCREEN, RED, v_control.center, 3)
There is a rectangle called, v_control that I'm using with colliderect.
 v_control = pygame.Rect(650, 450, 100, 100)
Before I calculate the angle, I make sure that the thumb is inside of the rectangle for the virtual controller.
if v_control.collidepoint(pos):
    rad = get_angle(pos, v_control.center)

Review Your Trigonometry

You'll need to use arc tangent to calculate the angle in radians. You'll also need to use sine and cosine. If your trigonometry is a rusty, review it now.
math.atanmath.sin, and math.cos are in the python math standard library. You'll need to addimport math at the top of your program.
Review of sine, cosine, and tangent
To use arc tangent you'll need to calculate the lengths of the opposite and adjacent sides of a right triangle. Since the formulas to calculate the lengths of the sides of a triangle are slightly different depending on where the thumb is on the controller, I've divided the controller into four quadrants, starting with quadrant one in the upper right and rotating counter-clockwise.
For each quadrant, you'll need to adjust the formula to calculate the opposite and adjacent sides of the triangle. For example, if the mouse is above the center of the controller, you'll need to subtract the mouse y position from the centery of the controller.

Define Each Quadrant

Diagram of characteristics of each quadrant
For the y-axis, the mouse point is either:
  1. above the center of the controller
  2. below the center of the controller
  3. at the same height of the center of the controller

Quandrants 1 and 2

Mouse Point Located Above Controller Center
If the mouse point is above the center of the controller, than check for one of three conditions:
  1. x is to the right of the controller
  2. x is to the left of the controller
  3. x is at the same point as the centerx of the controller

Quadrant 1

Mouse point is located above and to the right of controller
Diagram of Quadrant 1
Example code. Note that you need to convert to floating point.
center is a two number tuple (400,300), the center of the player. x, y is the mouse position.
    opposite = float(center[1] - y)
    if x > center[0]:
        adjacent = float(x - center[0])
        rad = math.atan(opposite/adjacent)
Here's what it looks like with the game running. Note that the angle of the mouse pointer relative to the center of the virtual controller is the same as the angle of the beam relative to the center of the player.
Screenshot of game with beam in quadrant 1


Quadrant 3

Mouse point is below and to the left of the controller center
If the mouse pointer is not in quadrant 1, add the appropriate radian value. For example, if the mouse pointer is in quadrant 3, then add pi (3.14) to the radian value.
calculation of quadrant 3

Using Radian Angle to Control Beam

Creating a beam is easier than a bullet. It is a line with the starting point at the center of the player and the end point 30 pixels out from the center.  In the next lesson, the beam becomes the gun turret.  I increased the width of the line to 6 pixels.  The end point of the gun turret will become the starting point of the bullet.  
Once you have the angle, use sine and cosine to calculate the length of opposite and adjacent sides of the triangle.
def beam(angle, center):
    """
    :param angle: radians calculated from the virtual controller
    :return: x,y coordinates of the end-point
    Start with the center of the player.  The end of the beam is 100 pixels
    away from the center.  To make a bullet instead of beam, create a class
    for bullet and have the hypoteneuse be an attribute that increases
    in size.  Remember to delete the bullet from the sprite group or list
    when it goes off the screen.
    """
    hypoteneuse = 30.0
    adjacent = math.cos(angle) * hypoteneuse
    x = adjacent + center[0]
    opposite = math.sin(angle) * hypoteneuse
    y = center[1] - opposite
    beam_end = (x, y)
    return beam_end

Shoot Bullets Instead of a Beam

If you want to shoot bullets, I'm using sprites. Don't be intimidated by sprites even though the code looks a bit funky. The bullet moves forward by increasing the length of the hypotenuse by 5 pixels.
class Bullet(pygame.sprite.Sprite):
    def __init__(self, angle, p_pos):
        YELLOW = (250, 223, 65)
        RED = (200, 10, 10)
        pygame.sprite.Sprite.__init__(self)
        self.image = pygame.Surface((6,6))
        pygame.draw.circle(self.image, YELLOW, (3, 3), 3)
        pygame.draw.circle(self.image, RED, (3,3), 1)
        self.rect = self.image.get_rect()
        self.hypotenuse = 30.0
        self.angle = angle
        self.cent = p_pos

    def update(self):
        adjacent = math.cos(self.angle) * self.hypotenuse
        x = adjacent + self.cent[0]
        opposite = math.sin(self.angle) * self.hypotenuse
        y = self.cent[1] - opposite
        self.rect.center = (x, y)
        self.hypotenuse += 5

You'll need to set up a timer for the creation of new bullets so that the bullets don't clump together in a mass of destruction every time you press the fire button.  See the code in bullet.py for an example in how to create the delay between bullet creation.

Move The Player

In the second example, I'm using almost the same code to move the player around the screen.
Move on to the second lesson on virtual controller angle tutorial.


More games with Python, Pygame, and pgs4a written by a boy in middle school and high school are available for reference to see what a typical child is doing.  It's important to understand that the examples don't show the best way to do things.  They just show a way that a child is getting stuff done. One of the problems I've found with most tutorials is that the examples are best-practice perfect for adults.  I have a theory that children also learn by thinking about how to improve on another child's code.  Additional examples are available
The most likely scenario is to start with Swarm and build from there.
My son is planning to try something with the Android accelerometer.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Using Android Accelerometer with Pygame

My son recently started to use the accelerometer functions in his Android phone to develop games with Python. He's building a variation of Swarm, a 2D tile map game that he wrote in middle school.

The accelerometer is easy to get working with pgs4a.

To pull the x,y,z axis, use this:


You will get a floating point number for each of the three axises.

Here's a simple way to set four directions, up, down, left, right:


In the example above, I'm holding the phone sideways, in landscape mode.  The left-right movement is controlled by the 2nd value in the list and the up-down movement is controlled by the 1st item in the list.

It would easy to set up 8 direction movement or even a greater range of movement.  Unlike Swarm, which used only 8 directions for bullets, we're using sin and cos to give the bullets a greater range of movement.

In order to test the application on my desktop, I've also created a virtual controller to simulate the accelerometer.

Here's the application running on my desktop with the virtual controller.
video


After you install the application on your Android phone, it is a bit more difficult to debug and test the accelerometer.   You can print out the value of the accelerometer and then tune your game so that the player moves with the sensitivity that works for your game. If you print out the accel_reading, you will see a three number tuple, with the numbers all in floating point.


I/python  (21058): Initialize Python for Android
I/python  (21058): ['/data/data/org.pychildren.accel/files/lib/python2.7/site-packages', '/data/data/org.pychildren.accel/files/lib/site-python']
I/python  (21058): Opening APK '/data/app/org.pychildren.accel-1.apk'
I/python  (21058): (-3.8019924163818359, -0.31603461503982544, 8.7819318771362305)
I/python  (21058): (-3.8019924163818359, -0.31603461503982544, 8.7819318771362305)
I/python  (21058): (-3.8019924163818359, -0.31603461503982544, 8.7819318771362305)

If you don't know how to see the output from your app when it is running on your phone, read my   post explaining how you can see the output of your print statements with adb.

Here's a demo of the character running on an old Samsung phone without the flock.   The controller in the lower right is for 360 degree bullet firing.

video

Organizing Pygame Programs Into Separate Files - Getting Started With Basics

Everyone starts off with one long block of code in a main.py file. At some point, we break the program into separate files. In python, the separate file is called a module. Within each module, you can put functions and classes. As soon as you start to break up the program into separate files, everyone wonders how to get the variables from the main while loop in pygame to the module that is drawing something to the screen.  There are many ways to do this.  The easiest is to pass the main screen to your module as a global variable.

In this example, I call my main program main.py and I call my module draw.py.

craig@ubuntu-desktop:~/Development/dad/screens$ lsdraw.py  draw.pyc  main.py 
Ignore the file, draw.pyc.  It is created automatically when you run the program.

From main.py, you can access draw.py using import draw



My draw module just puts two graphics to the screen, one with a function and with with a class.

To access the module from the program, you can either call the function directly with draw.dot(SCREEN) or instantiate the class.
Here's the full code listing:



Image of program showing how main.py calls up the draw function from draw.py.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pygame on Android - What to Do When Your Android App Dies Soon After Startup

You can use adb to get console error messages and print statement output from your pygame app on Android phones.  One of the most frustrating thing for beginners to pygame on Android is when the app runs fine on their desktop, but dies soon after startup on their Android phone.  Usually, you click on the app, the splash screen comes up, then the Android app silently dies.  Unless you're using adb, corrently you could be stuck.

With the usb cable connected between your phone and desktop, run 

adb logcat |grep python

Here's the output I got today.

I/python  (  580): 
Opening APK '/data/app/org.pychildren.surfsc-2.apk'I/python  (  580): 
Traceback (most recent call last):I/python  (  580):   
File "main.py", line 323, in <module>I/python  (  580):     
main()I/python  (  580):   
File "main.py", line 296, in mainI/python  (  580):     
pprint.pprint(weather.w_dict)I/python  (  580): 
NameError: global name 'pprint' is not definedI/python  (  580): 
Python for android ended.I/ActivityManager( 7163): Process org.pychildren.surfsc:python (pid 580) has died.

It is clear that there's a problem with the pprint.pprint statement that I was using to display the Python dictionary of weather data.  It even gives me the line number in my source code.  I simply commented out the line and the app started working again on my Android phone.



I've added basic weather information to my version.  My son's version has a cleaner interface and better colors.