Game Jam #7

Reeeally late in posting this, but I’m determined to post about my game jam back in July where the theme was time manipulation. The dynamic was a little different, I had an “idea person” to help move the creative process along and blocks. I was paired up with Jacq, sound engineer and creative mind. After a few iterations of rehashing the fundamentals of our game, we finally came up with a platformer that fit  the theme. From this experience I had some takeaways to apply to my next jam.

Idea People are AWESOME
Having a person to handle the brainstorming while you’re coding has its benefits. It’s easier to cut and run when hitting a wall, as the other person has already been thinking into alternatives, opposed to wasting time on something that just isn’t working because you don’t have any better ideas.

Skillsets can become dusty
This was a frustrating lesson to learn. After not touching Flixel for a month and a half, working with basics like movement and sprite placement was more difficult than it should have been.

There’s an easier way to prototype
My toolset has been pretty low level. I use ActionScript, and while I utilize the Flixel framework with libraries, it still requires a lot of coding. At the end of the jam I surmized I would have developed my prototype faster with a prototyping framework such as Construct 2 or Stencyl.  Both allow the rapid prototyping of platformers, such as this one without coding.

For those interested, the source and demo can be found here:

Early March Brain Dump

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post, so I’m forcing myself to start making short updates (although short is difficult). I’ve been caught up in a line of projects since June where my free time has been slowly consumed whole with web applications and other things. There was an attempt to just take it easy and run a World of Warcraft guild, but that was short lived. That fleeting moment was enjoyed while it lasted. Hopefully I can pick it up again sometime, but it seems I need to focus on some other areas of my life and career before I can invest in leisure. I strive to bring the two together, but that is going to take time and more planning.

These past twelve months have been really interesting, and have given me some perspective. I got to experience projects as both a supporter and a leader, and while it hasn’t changed my opinions or position, it has made me appreciate how valuable communication, teamwork, and leadership are. This includes leaving the comfort of ones mind to understand another, as well as relying on trust when it is not possible to do so. Trust doesn’t mean abandoning communication, rather using a different mode. For example, communicating expectations, but leaving application to the other persons. It may sound simple, but shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The main project we worked on was successfully launched last month, followed by a rapid release of a sub-product a couple weeks later. It took a little over six months from technical planning to completed implementation. There were some interesting challenges. Firstly, this project had a hard deadline, which we typically don’t have. There was no room to push out milestones. Secondly, we started from scratch and with a completely custom framework (although later replaced). And lastly, our project lead fell ill mid-project at which point I took on the responsibility. Our team was amazing, and pulled through when defeat was all but inevitable. There was a sense of perseverance and tenacity held by everyone that made the project a success, without those attitudes we would have surely been behind by a good month, if not more.

Anyway, more updates to come. I’ll be adding some posts about the framework we implemented for this latest endeavour, along with some other stuff I’ve been meaning to post.


I’ve started a game project with my wife, who is a 2d artist. Among the titles we’ve thrown around, Canabaliced (Canabal – Iced) seemed most appropriate. The premise of the game (so far) is you’re a popsicle struggling to survive the heat. And how does he survive? Just the way we do, by eating icy treats, including other popsicles!

The game’s theme was inspired from a challenge by Game Prototype Challenge.  We didn’t end up submitting anything, but we still got an idea to run with.  There’s a lot of ideas being thrown around, shot down, prodded, and dissected, but it’s gaining speed and direction. I see this game concept having a lot of potential, especially with the plethora of frozen treats that exist. But first things first, we need to settle on perspectives, game mechanics, and artsy things.


For perspective and game mechanics, I’m thinking of designing the levels similar to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II and Double Dragon II: The Revenge. We’ll start off with the level mechanics of Turtles, and later add the more advanced level design elements from Double Dragon, like climbing ladders, and the slight change of terrain perspective/mobility where the characters can only move horizontally.

Weaponry will be another fun thing to play with, including melee, and… ehrm… projectile types.  It will be all out popsicle pandamonium. One idea is to have the player and enemy spit or vomit popsicle juice, with different colors of juice having their own effect; poison, “fire”, slow, etc. There’s room for rocket(pop) launchers, “cherry bombs”, and chocolate mint sprinkle somethings. I need to fit an ice cream sandwich somewhere in there too.

Maybe at some point, there will be a online two player mode just like Turtles, and Dragon.

Restocking Ammunition

One twist I am intending on using is to have the character’s main weapon use his health as the ammunition.  Any additional weapons will have a small supply of ammo,  meaning the player will need to be cautious using their weapons. The player will be able to restock their main weapon (popsicle spit) in two ways: by obtaining ammo deposits throughout the levels or by consuming NPCs (the good and the evil). I’m thinking of adding some type of morality meter for the second option, which would apply some type of consequence if the player decides to take the easy route and destroy innocent NPCs.


This basically encapsulates the initial concepts and ideas. I have some developments I will be sharing in some future posts. I think the biggest challenge with this game will be not to make it too serious, or filter the concept. After the idea settled, and reason began returning, I had several parental sensors going off in my head. The same ones I have to ignore when watching Adventure Time (which much of the humor is or will be inspired by). It’s not meant to be serious, it’s meant to be fun. Even so, I still want to give this enough depth to make it more then a game that you play for a few minutes and never touch again.

I’ll be posting more as we progress, including some tutorials and AS widgets. Stay tuned!

Game Jam #5 Takeways

Here is a takeaways review for last month’s game jam. This builds off of the last entry in this series, from Game Jam #4.

This last game jam was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  There’s always a lot of good ideas out there, and I’m impressed at how imaginative and innovative people can be. Thanks to the Sacramento Game Jam meetup and 5th Planet Games for making this possible!

I entered this game jam with a couple objectives in mind. First, to use what I know, and second, to complete a game within the allotted time. Now let me tell you, both of these are challenges! When you enter a jam, you don’t know what other skill sets you have available, and with this being a social event, it’s difficult to consider working by your lonesome. But that’s exactly what happened, at least at first. I could have worked with Unity, currently a very soft skill, or in Java with a framework I’ve never used before. There was even an existing team using ActionScript (my skill of choice), but there were already quite a few members. All were -very- tempting, as I was really seeking out a collaborative effort, but in the end I started off by myself. Luckily, a designer found his way to me, and I became a team of two.

The end result was a nice prototype of a top down action game we titled “Alien Blitzer”. We had a HUD, as well as terrain and player/enemy graphics. The Flixel/Power Tools helped create a functional prototype relatively fast. It was really nice how things just slid in place towards the end. We were successful in the sense that we had a functioning prototype that included the core mechanics and game play. More can be read about the prototype itself in a previous post.

Lessons to apply to the next Game Jam

The outcome was no accident.  It was a result of experiencing two previous jams/hackathon where things didn’t go exactly as planned, some research, and most importantly, the application of these things. Just like the previous jams, there are a few key things that I have taken away from this jam through trial and error, and will continue using or improve on in preparation for the next game jam.

1.) Have an idea what you want to do

Have an idea what role you want to play, and what skills you will be offering. Going in without any plan can make it difficult to form a group, and can set you up for failure. This doesn’t mean everything must be set in stone, just have a rough plan. It’s tempting to be ultra flexible, and acquire new skills on the spot, but it’s more important to produce a prototype, so try your best to make use of what compatible skills are available. In addition, if you’re up to being a leader, be ready to be step up at the very start.

3.) Create a prototyping kit

Take your framework a step forward, put together a kit that’s fast and flexible, so setup takes less time and doing  comes sooner in the prototyping phase. To emphasis, these jams are meant for prototyping. The less time you spend implementing (coding)  something the better. This means you have more time to work on polishing mechanics, content, etc. A kit that at least has the basic environment setup, player controls, and a splashscreen would be great. It should be setup in a way where it’s easy to remove unneeded features just by removing a few lines of code, you don’t want to go too crazy.

I’ve started a Flixel/Power Tools/Dame kit on github.

4.) Bring a big pad of paper, and some writing utensils

Planning is really important, and it’s easy to become lost in the flurry of  activity. Ideas, goals, and thoughts can become meddled when they’re just floating in your head. Use something physical to keep everyone bound to one reality and understanding. This would include sketches, lists, or written words.  Something to avoid misinterpretations or deviations from what really needs to happen. Putting things down on paper helps out a lot, and I know for at least myself, it helps eliminate fuzzy logic that sounds good at first, but falls apart when it comes time for implementation (doh!).

5.) Map out your time

Time runs out fast, like super crazy fast!  It’s crucial to plan out how you will be using that time. Make milestones, set check in points to touch base either individually or as a team. Break out the project into parts, and then iterate through each part throughout the jam in cycles. Select the most relevant pieces first, estimate how much time it should take with some fudge room, and communicate that to all team members. When the time has past, evaluate the progress, and if the feature isn’t complete, decide if it needs to be rehashed, or if it’s best to continue plugging away at it. There should be a beginning, middle, and end to the complete development cycle. Make sure to segment time before the end of the jam so you’re not making a mad dash to get everything together last minute!

6.) Take snapshots

If you reach a milestone (wohoo!), backup your work (on all machines) so that if things go awry, there is something to fall back on. This should be something that can be done simply, and quickly. While version control systems such as Git or Subversion may sound like a good idea for something like this, they probably aren’t. You don’t want the overhead of working on merge conflicts or other possible version control specific snags. A simple copy and paste should do the job.


Taking steps to organize yourself and be more prepared are ingredients for a better experience all around. I look forward to seeing the results to the next jam, as I apply these new tidbits to my next game jam.

I’m curious if anyone has extensions of what I’ve mentioned here, or any additional tips.

Alien Blitzer

It’s the year 2600, and you have embarked on a voyage to find new alien artifacts in order to advance your civilization. The only problem is, the planet you are excavating on is still inhabited, and its natives aren’t too happy that you’re trying to take their stuff!

This is the premise of Alien Blitzer, the product of an afternoon of game jamming. It was built from concept to prototype in a 6 hour period with the theme of “Evolution”. In this post I just want to explore the game itself, and influences. I will be going over takeaways separately.

The Game

Here’s a slightly cleaned up version of the game. This is what we finished up with, with the exception of bugs,  a couple minor visual things, and the intro screen. While incomplete, it was a nice prototype for the given time with two people . I coded the game in ActionScript while Josh Flash created the HUD and sprite graphics. I’ve included the demo and source below, although I warn, the source isn’t pretty.

Demo | Source


Core mechanics are pretty simple, you have your arrow key movement (up, down, left right), and projectile attack. Ammo is expendable, so the player must collect ammo as they make their way through the stage. And there are also aliens the player must dodge or destroy.

One of the inspirations was the old NES title Legendary Wings. It looks as though I borrowed a few ideas, although not necessarily intentional. These include player controls, enemies, and weapon power ups. It may not look as much in the prototype, but that’s where things were going.  The weapon system is intended to share the same weapon “evolution”,  giving the player a more powerful weapon as they collect items. In addition, the baddies are intended to have a more elaborate  movement, opposed to the straight lines.

Getting Technical

Alien Blitzer is built using Flixel, and a small set of other tools. Here’s a quick break out of what was used.

Controls – Player movement and attacking is handled by Flixel Power Tools’ FlxControl. For prototyping, this library makes things super simple as long as you’re looking for basic controls.

Tile Mapping – The tile map was put together with Dame Editor, and is made up of a few layers for the ground map, water, and mobs. The mobs needed some extra processing with ActionScript so they weren’t all part of one entity, and are activated by distance from the player. I was looking for something built into Flixel or Flixel Power Tools to more eloquently detect and trigger an event for when the object was on screen, but wasn’t able to locate anything in time.

Hud & Sprites – Graphics were created in Photoshop. They snapped in really nicely, replacing a bunch of  ugly colored blocks that acted as placeholders.

Intro Screen – The intro screen uses Flixel Power Tools’ special FX, and Greensock’s TweenMax for the animation loop.

Future Tasks

I’ll be using what I learned from this game towards future games, including an upcoming prototype. Here are some points of focus in the near future:

Polish – The player controls and mob speed really needs to be tweaked so that thought can be put behind shooting the baddies. Maybe even some reworking of sprite proportions. As it is now, by the time a mob comes into view, you don’t have enough time to move into position to kill it. The level itself also need to be extended, it’s pretty short.

Sprite Management – I’m playing around with managing mob sprites in Dame so that there is little need for extra coding. This will make the polishing mentioned above much easier. Dame gives the option of creating several ActionScript classes that cover the tilemap/level, sprites, and interaction between these objects and the rest of the game. I intend on playing with paths and “trigger” tiles, which can effectively guide or alter sprite behavior, but I’m not sure if I can fit those into this game.

Music – Adding music has been a struggle. At first I was running into bitrate issues, but now it fails silently. I’ll want to add sound effects, and soundtracks in the future. Overcome I must.


There you have it. A review of my latest prototype. It has opened up a few more avenues to explore, which I’ll be writing up posts for as I go on.

I’m curious what technologies here others are using, or maybe want to learn. Input is welcome.

Game Jam #4 Takeways

At the end of April I had my first Game Jam with our local Sac Game Jam meetup. It was loads of fun, and a valuable experience. For this jam series, all teams start from the ground up, beginning by deciding on a game concept, mechanics, and then building out the prototype. This is all done within a relatively small period of time (around  6 hours), and at the end we all demo our creations, for better or worse.

My team went with a tug-of-war concept, and we used ActionScript using the Flixel framework.  We consisted of two ActionScript programmers, and a graphic designer. Let me just say, graphic designers are awesome. We were lacking some key equipment, so we restored to taking photos of the hand drawn images using a cellphone. Low tech, but it worked out. The paper cut-outs had a neat look too! In the end we made a mad dash to make things presentable, and while we had something to show, there was more we had wanted to include that didn’t make the cut.

There are many pitfalls that can be encountered throughout the prototyping process which can snare both newbie, and experienced jammer. These traps can be enticing,  often giving the facade of being critically important (“the game will be nothing without this!”), and in some cases of no importance (“we can figure this out later”, “this will be a snap!”). These can be avoided through preparation, planning, and restraint. Here are some tips I’ve gathered from this experience that I found noteworthy and will apply in future jams.

1.) Come prepared, don’t learn the framework at the game jam

There should be a basic understanding of how to use the framework,  not mastery, but some familiarity. The key issue is you don’t want to be spending chunks of time struggling with a mechanic or feature. This will eat up what little time you have like Pacman.

2.) Prototype, quick and dirty

Don’t worry too much about what it looks like, in code or graphically. You’re strapped for time, no one is going to care if it’s all nightmarish spaghetti code (*shudder*). Ya, it would be awesome if you could OOPify things with Player->doSomeAction(enemy), but you may be complicating things, which results in bottlenecks further down the line.  Make everything public, keep it in a single file unless absolutely necessarily.  In addition, don’t worry about animating sprites, or anything like that. This is just a prototype to give the idea of what you’re game will be like. Resort to using colored blocks and shapes if need be. Prototype like the wind!

3.) Start with simple game mechanics

Decide on core mechanics within the first moments of the jam, and keep those mechanics simple. It’s really easy to get carried away with game mechanics and lose sight on your main objective. Mechanics that require conditions and checking (ex. buff/debuff system) should be boiled down to something more manageable so that it doesn’t become a hold up. Even if the mechanics sound too simple, stick with them until it’s been implemented. If they really are that simple, you will have time to expand and add.

4.) Divide up features when working in groups

Working with another programmer adds a layer of trickiness. You now have to be careful of not stepping on the other fellow’s toes. Avoid overlap, and give ownership to features. Break things out logically like movement, item collection, and enemy collision. This is a practice that should be started at the very beginning so that there is a minimal amount of duplication.

5.) Be ready to share your stuff

When working with a group, be sure you have a way to efficiently share code at any time. There are many services out there, such as DropBox, but it doesn’t have to be that fancy. E-mail will work just as well. If you don’t have something setup in advance, resort to what ever is the most effective that doesn’t take long to setup. Advanced forms of code sharing, such as version control (Subversion, Github) may be tempting, but should most likely be avoided due to complications that can arise, such automated merging, and conflicts. From a coders perspective, you should know what is being removed or added.


Well there you go, a handful of pitfalls to watch out for from a great learning experience that was Game Jam #4.  There will be more that I will be sharing as I journal more past and future jams.  The important thing is to keep looking how to improve yourself, and most of all to have fun.

Thanks go out to for their podcast on prototyping (and others).

PHPUnit with YAML

After diving into some database integration testing, I found that my data model was incompatible in a XML format. Using hash tags is a no-no, as it’s against XML specifications. Well darn, what is a coder to do? YAML to the rescue.

First, what is YAML? Besides it being fun to say, it’s a “human friendly data serialization language”. HFDSL doesn’t sound as cool as YAML, and just like PHP, you shouldn’t look to far into the acroymn, less you are fond of infinite loops.

“YAML is a recursive acronym for “YAML Ain’t Markup Language“. Early in its development, YAML was said to mean “Yet Another Markup Language“,[3] but was retronymed to distinguish its purpose as data-oriented, rather than document markup.” – Wikipedia

Fantastic, moving on…

PHPUnit uses YAML as a supported format for creating datasets. Tables, columns, and rows are split up using colons, dashes and spacing to define your database objects. For example, let’s say we have a dataset of books.

books: #table name
– #begin a new record, followed by key: value pair
id: 1
title: Moby Dick
author: Herman Melville

id: 2
title: The Hobbit
author: J. R. R. Tolkien

This will add two rows to the table books with its respective data.

YAML can definitely be easier to read in some scenarios, as there is less to read. After using it for a couple months, it has kind of grown on me as well. It is a nice format to use  for config files when XML is overkill.

Unit Testing: Advanced

I decided to hunker down and get familiar with unit and integration testing a while back, and have finally reached a point where I’m using it with production code. I started off with the base understanding that unit testing’s purpose was to test code, but wasn’t sure in what way. In this post I will give a brief overview of what I setup and helpful tidbits I picked up along the way.

Unit tests are commonly written to ensure a unit of code (ex. class or function)  work as intended. There is also integration tests, which is meant for groups of units or “black box” integration, such as a database where the interface is being tested, and we don’t care about anything beyond that.


For database integration testing, there is an extra prerequisite, the mySQL database and PDO library.

  • PHP
  • PEAR
  • PHPUnit
  • mySQL
  • PDO Library
PHPUnit uses the PDO library to handle setup and teardown (cleanup) of the database, and other PDO supported databases can be used in place of mySQL. A database is not required if you are not doing database integration.


File Structure

In addition to the basic file structure described in the first installment, there are a few additional parts to the structure.

Folders that contain PHPUnit setup files are prepended with an underscore to separate those from the test files. As you will see, there are two classes folders, one with the underscore and one without. Folders with underscores are used to configure or extend the framework and do not contain any tests.

In addition to the specially named folders, there are two files used for setup: bootstrap.php and configuration.xml.


The bootstrap runs before the tests, and intended to setup the global environment. This is not to be confused with setting up test specific items that are meant to be sanitized for each tests, that logic should be placed in the setup and teardown functions which will be discussed later.

For my project, I needed to alter the include path and autoload method. Setting the include path was tricky, as they are relative to wherever the unit test is being executed from, and this may vary if your tests don’t all live in a single folder level.

Additionally, my PHP classes have a different file naming convention from the norm. For this reason I added logic in the bootstrap to handle the include paths by using spl_autoload_register. The native function file_exists does not automatically check the include path, so I broke support for the normal naming convention by doing this, but have not run into a problems (yet!).

Note: When overriding __autoload, spl_autoload_register should be used instead.

To tell PHPUnit to use your bootstrap, you must use:
–bootstrap /path/to/bootstrap.php

Configration File

PHPUnit has the ability to load an XML configuration file. Settings in that configuration file are loaded into a global, which can be used to access that data.



<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<var name="DB_DSN" value="mysql:dbname=dbname;host=localhost" />
<var name="DB_USER" value="dbuser" />
<var name="DB_PASSWD" value="dbpass" />
<var name="DB_DBNAME" value="dbname" />

Database Setup

Tests will need a stable database environment to execute predictable tests. While there is some setup needed to get PHPUnit to work with your database, there are some built in functions to return the database back into the state before each test was run.

I used the configuration file to load my database credentials, as shown in the PHPUnit documentation.

Test Setup and Tear Down

In addition to the standard setup and teardown methods, there are additional methods to handle database connections and data cleanup before each test.

The setup/tear down process with a database is a little more complicated then that with PHP objects. Each test should begin and end with a clean slate, therefore truncating the database tables is run before anything else. The truncation is done automatically, however the system needs to know what it’s connecting to, and what it’s touching.


There is a caveat with the truncation process with at least mySQL ver 5.5.16 , which is dealing with foreign key constraints. When PHPUnit sends the command to truncate a table, MySQL will have nothing to do with it when the constraints are in place, and the request errors out. Luckily, I was able to find some code that overrides this behavior so that we can move along to the next thing.

A method for obtaining a database connection. This can be either a new one or existing. It is here that the settings from configuration.xml are used, as hard coding credentials gets messy.

Now that we have our connection established, the database needs some data to test. getDataSet is intended just for this, and can be used to insert data from a source into the database.

Stubs and Mock Objects

Stubs and Mock objects are useful for testing out variations in input/output, and assuring that methods within a class are being called appropriately.

Definitions taken from PHPUnit:

Stubs – The practice of replacing an object with a test double that (optionally) returns configured return values is refered to as stubbing. You can use a stub to “replace a real component on which the SUT depends so that the test has a control point for the indirect inputs of the SUT. This allows the test to force the SUT down paths it might not otherwise execute”.

Mocking – The practice of replacing an object with a test double that verifies expectations, for instance asserting that a method has been called, is refered to as <em>mocking</em>.

Testing classes that take a parameter during __construct and then run methods on it that require mocking took a couple extra steps to test out. For example, let’s say we have this class:


class Foo {

public $myVar;

function __construct($myVar) {

$this->myVar = $myVar;



function doSomething() {

// Code



function testFoo() {
$stub = $this->getMock(‘Foo’, null, null, true);


First, the constructor needed to be disabled, and then mocking of the method needing testing.

Another scenario I ran into was testing out an abstract. An abstract cannot be created by itself, it needs another object to use it and define the abstract functions. PHPUnit allows for the mocking of abstract classes so that “concrete methods” can be tested out.

One last note:

According to PHPUnit documentation: “finalprivate and static methods cannot be stubbed or mocked. They are ignored by PHPUnit’s test double functionality and retain their original behavior.”

However, there is a work around for private/protected methods and attributes.


So there you have it, a brief look at PHPUnit.

Unit Testing: Basics

I decided to get serious with unit/integration testing, and have found the practice to be well worth it. I started off with the base understanding that the purpose of unit testing was to test code, but wasn’t sure in what way. I dove in, and here I am now documenting my findings.

I have broken up this subject into two parts; basic and advanced use. Basic is theory and simple unit testing information, while advanced covers globalized test configuration and setup, and database integration.

In the development life cycle, unit testing can exist before or after coding, depending on which development approach is being taken. Some are in the practice of creating unit tests before they begin generating code for their application, while other models have unit testing as a post-coding task. While the variations of development models is interesting, it falls outside the scope of this post.

Unit tests are commonly written to ensure a unit of code (ex. class or function)  work as intended. There is also integration testing, which is typically done after unit testing, and is meant for grouped units of code or “black box” integration, such as a database where the interface is being tested and not the functions behind that interface.

In addition to ensuring code is working as desired, tests act as documentation, which contributes to the often neglected documentation step of the development life cycle.

Now that we have an understanding as to what these tests are and what they’re meant for, let’s create a test.


My environment was setup with:

  • PHP
  • PEAR
  • PHPUnit
PHPUnit doesn’t necessarily need to be installed from PEAR, although that is how I did it.

Creating a Test Class

Folder Structure & Naming Conventions

Tests typically reside in a separate folder at the root of the project, this way the files are isolated from the production code base, and it is easy to exclude test files.

File and class names follow a *Test.php naming convention.

For function names, they should either follow test*, or use the @test annotation.


public function testNullTypeInConstruct() {
// Code here
* @test
public function functionToTestSomethingElse() {
// Code here

Writing out a descriptive name for each test method makes it easier to keep track of what does what from a glance, especially when using features like testdox, which changes method names into a human readable format.

Skeleton Generator

A “skeleton” test class with can be created automatically based on an existing class by using the skeleton generator. This does not generate all test functions in one shot, but does get you started off on the right foot.

Test Setup and Tear Down

Maintaining a sanitized testing environment is key. PHPUnit includes methods for setting up and removing remnants of  previous tests. The two main methods are named setUp and tearDown.  The names are self-explanatory, setUp runs prior to each test and is intended for initializing variables for each test, while tearDown is for clean up.

Non-global variables are wiped out after each test, so PHP clean up requires little to no effort, as variables are automatically moved into garbage collection and dumped at the end of the script. Only in resource intensive tests should there be any need to consider extra steps in clean up.


Annotations can be made to alter the behavior of a test function, such as indicating an exception is expected to be raised in a test. For example, ExpectedExceptions can be noted by annotation or a set function.

Annotations live inside PHP comments. There was an oddity I came across, which is worth noting. I had to use a double asterisk at the beginning of the comment. So I make sure to use /** instead of /* to begin my comments.


Here we have the test itself, everything else was the setup. An assertion is a declaration that something should be as defined, or in the case of expected exceptions, it should not be. There are a wide variety of predefined insertions that can be used on booleans, strings, objects and arrays. A full list can be found in the PHPUnit documentation.

Putting It All Together

class MyClass {
public $foo = 42;


require_once dirname(__FILE__) . ‘/../../classes/MyClass.php’;

class MyClassTest extends PHPUnit_Framework_TestCase {
protected $object;

protected function setUp() {
$this->object = new MyClass;

protected function tearDown() {


function testFoo() {
$this->assertEquals($this->object->foo, 42);


What’s next?

Here you have information to build a very simple unit tests. Methods can be tested to assure they behave correctly and return expected data regardless of input. In the next post, we take a look at advanced features and working with integration testing.

Shorthand Javascript Techniques

(This is for coders familiar with the JavaScript language. Information on more basic JavaScript usage can be found at sites like


Keeping code standardized can be made easier through JavaScript shorthand. Here we will be looking at several techniques that will make code more readable, flexible and overall easier to matain.

Mathematic Operations
Anonymous Functions



Instead of declaring each variable individually, they can be placed on the same line with a comma separating them.

[javascript]var foo1, foo2, foo3, foo4;[/javascript]


[javascript]var foo_arr = [‘bar1’,  ‘bar2’,  ‘bar3’, ‘ bar4’];
window.alert(foo_arr[0]); //bar1[/javascript]


[javascript]var foo_obj = {name:  ‘bar’, some_prop: ‘test’};
window.alert(; //bar[/javascript]


[javascript]condition? true_logic :  false_logic;[/javascript]

Shorthand conditional statements can be coupled with an assignment, allowing  a single line of code to be used for simple conditional logic.

[javascript]var foo = bar? 1 : 0;[/javascript]

Assigning a default value when encountering an empty variable (null, undefined, 0, false, empty string) can also be shortened from this

[javascript]if(foo) {
bar = foo;
} else {
bar = ‘Default Value’;

to this

[javascript]bar = foo || ‘Default Value’;[/javascript]

Mathematic Operations

Handling math operations can be shorted by using the following syntax:


foo = 5;

foo ++; // Increase by one

foo –; //Decrease by one

foo -= 2; //Decrease by two

foo += 2; //Increase by two

foo *= 3; //Multiply by three

foo /= 2; //Divide by two


Anonymous Functions

Assigning a function to a variable:

[javascript]var my_func = function() { alert(‘Hello World’) }

Inline anonymous functions:

[javascript]var foo = {
name: ‘bar’,
fnc:  function() {
alert(‘Hello World’);

Common Usage

Combining the use of shorthand results in blocks of code that appear more elegant and easier to read.

[javascript]var foo = [
{name: ‘apple’, prop2: ‘test2’},
{name: ‘orange’, prop2: ‘test2’}

Instead of:

[javascript]function fruit(type, cultivar)
this.type= type;
this.cultivar = cultivar;
var foo = Array(
new fruit(‘Apple’, ‘Fuji’),
new fruit(‘Apple’, ‘Gala’)

As you can see, using shorthand removes “noise” and reduces the amount of written code, both of which make for easier reading. When rummaging through scripts that contain several hundred lines of code, removing any excess code makes life easier.