Since you’ve had chance to go see Superman now…

I can say my little bit about the story… Spoilers ahoy.

Darn, I nearly forgot about the weather

I, right along with Ramp, have been harassing Martini for a while now to see if he couldn’t conjour up some simple weather event – a darkening of the sky, drawing in of the fog, overcast style.

Granik and Martini have finally been working on new lighting/environmentals for 1.24, and its looking good and hey were talking about creating a system that would give us variable weather conditions, for a future release. But … The changing the daylight from a bright, sunny, texas day to a permanent gray, overcast might be a bit holywood but it would also be depressing and unberable.

I thought it’d be worth making the extra effort to start out with variable environment settings, even if it was only 3 or 5 options.

Fortunately for me, Killer and Rafter were of a similar mind.  I think Gophur was counting on me saying it’d take a lot of work. It took about 45, maybe 60 minutes to get the data moving through the system and correctly generated on the “weather server” (a part of the strat host that keeps the entier network synched as to what game time is).

Each time the game clock rolls over past midnight, it picks a new “weather pattern” for the day. So far we have sunny, greying and overcast. Still needs a bit of work tho ;)

CTHL update goes well, Superman super

It has been an agonising month, but… A host coder couldn’t ask for a nicer birthday present than a successful rollout of a host-update that seems to have eliminated most of the remaining CTHLs. Gotten a lot of feedback from people saying how much of an improvement it was. Woot! Those of you who had previously tried the “visplayerlimit 4” trick and found it to be CTHL hell might wanna break it out again.

Actually, my birthday was yesterday (28th) so a bunch of Rats went with me on Tuesday to see Superman at the Movie Tavern. (How lucky were they to get that domain?)

Toto had basically beaten any hopes we had of a good film out of us, and in a sense we were actually mostly going to laugh at the new “gay” Superman. On the way in we were saying how dissapointed we were that they’d shown the good bits in the trailers already.

I want to avoid saying too much about the movie because … from the titles onwards, I was reliving my first theatre viewing of Superman. So – if you haven’t been to see it because your buddies have told you how gay it is, or you saw the crappy stills in Maxxim: Keep thinking that way, and go watch the movie for a laugh. Gophur didn’t come with us Tuesday, so if he’s up for it, I’m gonna see if he wants to go again tomorrow.

Just remember: I rarely watch a movie twice, and almost never go to the theatre once for them…

CTHL testing and fixing

After an awful lot of weeding through false leads (no dude, you're CTHLing because you're trying to fit 102kbps of data down a very crap 14.4kbps connection, because your modem isn't connecting at 28.8kbps with a 450ms ping time to your ISPs modem and a year ago our "high bandwidth" setting was using way less bandwidth)… We finally started narrowing in on some real issues. We found that our pushing slightly larger chunks of data results in a slightly larger packet size which some of the "web accelerators" out there, and in particular LinkSys's "speedbooster" appear not to handle very well. Ray Waddell was telling me earlier today that LinkSys updated the firmware on his router and the engineer increased a "fragmentation size" variable, and his CTHLs have gone away.

Another popular cause seems to be the nForce firewall. I have an nForce4 motherboard, which I bought in part because I liked the idea of an onboard, firmware firewall. But its a pile of crap and I reinstalled windows and utterly disabled the nForce firewall stat.

Why doesn't it bother other games? Because they largely use UDP, so people trying to con another $50 bucks out of you for making your "web" go faster dick with TCP/IP settings and make TCP behave badly – but faster. OMGHEERZurPRONusukBUTITSGREATPRONnervehurterLOOKMOREPRON!

The big lingering culprit is the long-freeze followed by CTHL (note: If it doesn't say "Connection to host lost" in a little pop up box, it aint a frickin CTHL; it may still be a bug, but it ain't a CTHL). Martini has pretty much locked this down to the way the vehicles get loaded, and it seems like that the CTHL is being caused by too many new vehicles being added to your world view at once.

So for now the workaround is going to be host-side, reduce the number of vehicles that you can be introduced to in a single update and … don't send you any more until you've acknowledged those … avoiding slamming you into CTHL-inducing 45s pause.

To test that, I needed lots and lots of vehicles moving around in unpredictable fashions, popping in and out of vis, different types in no specific simple order…

Here's a short movie (5mb Windows Media Vid)…

You can also see it live and in person on the Training Server, at the T-junction south of Willemstaad. If you've been having CTHL issues, please give it a whirl. Especially if you have an old, backup, dialup connection you can test it against for comparisons sake…

(And yes, the vehicles are skippy, its intentional, the host is only moving them, it doesn't give them speed or acceleration etc so as to hurt the smoother code and increase the loading on your system, and incase you're wondering CTHLu071 is a buzzard)

Hey, I’m busy right now

c.e.: I'm one of the worst people in our office for walking into someone elses office "for a word".

I have a smallish office, office, longer than it it wide, at an L-shaped desk that almost slices the office in half. I like the small office for its tendency to discourage the impromtu brain-storming sessions I used to enjoy in my old office, which also served to ensure I never got anything done.

I sit diagonally to the office shape, my monitors in the turn of my desk, with their backs to the nearest wall. To my rear-left is a large window, to my forward-right the door.

A lot of the programming work I do is maintenance and debugging, which means that I generally don't type as much as a programmer who's "implementing". And because I'm working with a host cluster *and* a client application, I'm typically working on two monitors and 6 separate process windows at a time.

It used to be really difficult getting a good stretch of concentration here, there was always someone wandering into my office and misjudging my posture, expression or keyboard activity. "I don't mean to interrupt" can be such a head-job.

These days its me making the misjudgement, in that when Ramp or Martini wanders in to ask me questions, I'll sort of set a mental break point, but unless I get up and walk away from my desk, I find myself only dropping one of the things I'm working on.

And I'm not talking about destroyed concentration here, I'm talking about when I'm running some kind of low-priority QA test or testing out a feature or a fix that's not officially on the schedule and I don't think I'm putting my back into it. "Yup, I'm not busy right now" moments.

It's very surreal – I think I stopped what I was doing, I'm listening to what Doc, Gophur or whomever is saying. So, uh, what am I typing?

I've always had jobs that needed an awful lot of multi-tasking and mental bookmarking. I wonder if after all this time, quietly and without my realizing it, I've trained myself to automatically fork() mental processes off…

Eve thoughts over hotdogs

I was just cooking some hotdogs, watching them simmer in a pan, and I got to thinking about Eve. I ought to like it, but it somehow failed to click with me – a space-a-holic.

I had two characters in Eve, one whom I immediately set out exploring and travelling with, got lost because the tutorial broke on him, got killed because I wandered out of my depth, and got confused because I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. It was fun at first, though.

The second I followed the tutorial and play guide lines. I did one mission at a time, which is mind numbingly boring, and I set about raising my “skill learning” skills (memory, intelligence, learning). This was incredibly boring, the game basically played itself with me having to attend to it every few minutes or hours, and the bits where I had to play the game were more annoyance than anything else. What? My ship can fly itself across 12 star-systems or it can fly from a gate to a station, but it can’t do both? Some of the missions I was given I couldn’t do, because I was stuck on rookie equipment until I finished my learning cycle and could learn some useful skills. Plus because of the learning thing I’m stuck with the snail-fast rookie ship. (I eventually bought a shuttle only to have the missions start needing larger cargo loads than I could carry, grr).

This second character will be able to pick up skills like nobody’s business. And I suspect that, if I was willing to ride out the multi-day training durations to finish the regimen, would be quite a fun toon to build up a character with.

It just seems to be a really weak newbie experience that could be resolved in several non-detrimental ways, such as letting you get some learning skill from tutorial steps. Everyone has to learn those 3 skills at some point, so why not make them something the tutorial teaches you?

I feel amply qualified to label something as a “weak newbie experience” – by merit of familiarity :)

Video Editing

I have a fraps video I want to convert. I've got VirtualDub, but the video was taken thru a scope, so I'd like to crop/zoom it in so that you don't see all that empty space. Any suggestions of free vid software that can do that sort of thing (or has a free trial)?

(Preferably that can play it in a format most people can read)

Coding Itch

So for several weeks now, I've been stuck on CTHL issues: trying to get useful data is a bit like pulling teeth and, because this is an issue coming between player's and their entertainment, it's not reasonable to expect players to be reasonable. But that leaves me trying to find the question to the answer of 42.

Aside from going over the code, I've been reading through a lot of related material, on the web, off my bookshelf, etc; I've been looking at various network systems, and I've been considering alternate approaches to various of the systems that are in the way/in the causal path of the problems. And last, but not least, I've been dabbling with Visual Studio and a possible GM tool that would reside outside of the game. I can knock up the UI elements for a system like that and hook them up to the game server relatively trivially. I've even been contemplating doing it with wxWidgets to make it cross-platform; maybe if there's a good UI editor for it. (I don't have a Mac, so telling me that it can import Mac UI Builder files is not very bright).

The upshot is that I've, apparently, been writing something. I don't know what it is yet. But I have that undeniable itch – its like waking up to the smell of eggs and bacon (assuming you like eggs and bacon, that is) and then realising it's from next door, that its 6am in the morning and nowhere is open, and you don't have any eggs or bacon, or anything to cook them in.

Eve, Night 2.

I played some more Eve yesterday. I want to be nice to Eve, because I've known for over 20 years that an MMO space game would be tricky. It's tricky not to get into bun-fighting with the doofuses who've pointed at Eve as a demonstration as proof that WWII Online is doing things wrong; the most common is the update system so I'll speak to that for a second. And then I'll rant like a monkey :)

Microsoft’s response to customer feedback…

Having recognized that there were some issues with customer satisfaction in regards to the "Automatic Updates … Must Restart Your Computer" device, Microsoft have changed the way automatic updates now prompts you for restart. Perhaps because they heard people would just move the dialog off-screen and leave it alone…


So I give in. I've disabled Automatic Updates. I suspect – and I'm serious – that Microsoft has done this to discourage the use of automatic updates:

a. It probably uses a lot of bandwidth,
b. More people getting infected more often might improve adoption of their new security product.

A whole bunch of MS employees are going "OMG we do NOT think like that! I work at MS to make the world a better place". Sure. But does your line manager? Do the marketing execs? Look, someone just turned that annoying dialog into 6 degrees of greater annoyance, and someone signed off on it, possibly even requested the change. That has to have come from somewhere.