Membrane SoftwareTechnology development studio
Star Commander: A free 4x strategy game from Membrane Software. Download and play now
 
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Wednesday, April 19 2017 15:14 GMT
Posted by: Membrane Estimated read time: 9m Tags: programming websites
As webmasters of the Membrane Software site, it's our duty to deliver so-called "responsive" content: a page arranged in the best way possible for each user's individual device. These days, we can expect more than half of our web requests to come not from old-fashioned desktop PCs, but rather from new-fangled mobile devices. On these devices, we aim to load the page at a text size large enough to be immediately readable, and with a layout that makes most effective use of limited screen space without requiring the user to zoom. But there are still a lot of those desktops out there and our site needs to look good on them, not to mention larger mobile devices like tablets. How do we program a system to appropriately present a single set of content for such a wide range of screen sizes? Today, we'll explore ways to fulfill this unquestionably essential need for our modern web.
Tuesday, March 28 2017 01:12 GMT
Posted by: Membrane Estimated read time: 8m Tags: programming raspberry pi
The word appliance might conjure images of washing, blending, or garbage disposing gizmos, but in the area of computing we can use the concept to describe a device with the best quality of any appliance in your kitchen: it has one job to do, and does it perfectly every time with the absolute minimum help from you. At Membrane HQ, we have dozens of computing devices performing a wide array of tasks, and treat as many of them as possible like appliances. Raspberry Pi boards, in particular, are extremely useful for this type of work because they're easily programmable and can connect to other devices via Ethernet, module boards, or custom soldering. Armed with a board that can be programmed with arbitrary logic and then put in control of an arbitrary slave device, it's possible to create an appliance for absolutely any task if we put our minds to it. And what with Raspberry Pi boards being so inexpensive, we gain even more desirable appliance-like attributes: we can easily replace one that breaks, and we can get more of them if we have too much work for only one to handle.
Wednesday, March 22 2017 16:19 GMT
Posted by: Membrane Estimated read time: 6m Tags: games star commander final fantasy tactics
The final X in "4X game" stands for "extermination", and much of the time that means combat. A 4X game designer has several choices for how to handle combat. Early Civilization games have the player running units into one another right on the world map, with various unit stacking shenanigans possible depending on the title. Other games, such as Master of Orion II, use tactical combat to provide a game within a game, with the player's ability to win the combat game depending on events in the 4X game. I always did like me a nice tactical combat, and so Star Commander goes the latter route. As a space-themed game, Star Commander might be expected to adopt Master of Orion II as its model. However, its tactical systems are actually more similar to those of a non-4X, non-spacey title: our game influence for today, Final Fantasy Tactics.
Monday, March 13 2017 19:21 GMT
Posted by: Membrane Estimated read time: 5m Tags: raspberry pi
Raspberry Pi devices are remarkably inexpensive to buy, and their very low power needs make them inexpensive to run. We have a stable of no less than 10 Raspberry Pi devices running continuously. These replaced a set of unreliable and power-hungry PCs in running our display bank, as well as providing common IT functions around the office. However, as more services move from central systems to smaller distributed devices, we find new challenges arising in areas of coordination and control. How can we effectively manage a diverse set of technology functions that can be spread across any number of nodes? Today, we look at design ideas for a new application meant to bridge this gap and provide a seamless and enjoyable control interface for our computing needs.
Friday, March 03 2017 01:43 GMT
Posted by: Membrane Estimated read time: 4m Tags: games star commander tradewars
Most strategy games make use of hidden information to give players more interesting gameplay decisions, and Star Commander is no exception. Unlike a game such as Chess in which both players can see the whole board at all times, Star Commander is able to present each player with a separate view of the game state, thereby forcing them to act based on incomplete knowledge. For example, the game adds a degree of combat uncertainty by hiding precise enemy ship capabilities until the player is able to get in close for a scan. Too much uncertainty can be as unfun as too little, though, and so we'd still like to give players some indication of an unknown ship's strength. Star Commander does so in a manner inspired by our game influence for today: TradeWars 2002.
Friday, February 10 2017 21:49 GMT
Posted by: Membrane Estimated read time: 2m Tags: raspberry pi
For the past few years I've been tinkering with a small, single-board computer known as a Raspberry Pi. These devices are equipped with a processor capable of running a full-featured operating system, as well as a set of pins allowing them to be connected to any other electronic device. They are also able to output video over HDMI and stream media over a network, and I've put those two capabilities to good use in running continuous content on a bank of monitors. Boring, empty screens are now a thing of the past, having been replaced by an endless repeating sequence of randomly shuffled video clips. Note: I don't usually keep all of them on at once, to prevent insanity.
Monday, January 30 2017 23:08 GMT
Posted by: Membrane Estimated read time: 4m Tags: games star commander
In this article we begin a series examining "Star Commander", a turn-based strategy game available from Membrane Software and designed/implemented by yours truly. We'll take a look through the game's lengthy list of influences, while exploring its design decisions and their ramifications during play.
Wednesday, January 25 2017 18:27 GMT
Posted by: Membrane Estimated read time: 3m Tags: games programming
Hello, dear reader, and welcome to Membrane Software. As the name of the blog implies, we'll be discussing topics centered around software, and more generally, technology. It's a broad topic for sure, one that can and does fill hundreds of blogs. Two topics in particular are of interest at Membrane Software: video games and programming. If you're someone who's into either or both of those things, I hope you'll find these posts entertaining and informative. And if you're someone who is a maker of software and technology as we are, I hope we can trade some of that good old know-how as we focus on analyzing the creative process.