Don’t ignore warnings

Compilers generate warnings for a reason. Visual Studio may allow you to turn them off, but maybe you should reflect on the poor quality of many Microsoft products before following in *that* line of footsteps. They get away with it because of the nasty rope they have around end users necks.

3 more years to happy bunny!

I figure I probably only have to wait 3 more years until the monitor I’ve been wanting for 20 years finally becomes relatively typical and available — the 40in widescreen lcd – at least 3ft by 2, maybe 4×3. I don’t mean todays 1280×1024 for viewing at 30ft. I mean a “desktop” display. With a little curvature. As a sort of desk-back. Overall real-estate in excess of one of those 3 x 20ins tripples.

It’s time for the electronic desktop to finally replace the desktop that it sits on.

*Looks around, looks at watch expectantly, sighs, twiddles thumbs*

Only 3 years!

EQ2, Eve, MUD and Care packages

Played some EQ2 Friday night before Stargate. The thought that’s been bothering me about EQ2 for the longest time now finally expressed itself: Linkage. I have a quest book full of green quests that I still struggle to do, I find it difficult finding someone to group with to do them because (a) my guild are all in a different timezone (and I miss ya all, even Hoggy), (b) my guild merged with another, very cool guild, for raiding, and I’m not invested enough to get into raiding, but I won’t get that invested unless I invest myself enough to raid.

Linkage? Well I don’t have enough quests in any one zone to create a fun time there. No, I really don’t want to go to Everfrost to kill 80 swimmy blobs that come in threes, and chances of finding someone to group for that are slim. I have a second quest there to kill infinite numbers of goblins until a named one spawns, but it means clearing an area and I hate doing that only to have a group of players 15 levels lower turn up having hacked and slashed their way across Everfrost only to find some bloody level 58 wiping the area out.

I hatewatching the “Are They Killing Everything?” dance. The cleric on the horse turning every which way, the guy with the big sword running to the edge of the little islands and peeking across the water, while the chick in the dress is clearly standing there typing “Do you want me to port us somewhere else?” and checking her quest journal. That’s the shit that makes me want to work on MMOs. Those guys are adventuring, killed by me camping, and the game made me do it.

These green quests can still kick my ass, so while I might have 3 green quests in Lavastorm, I can only do one of them, and I really don’t feel like that long a trek to kill 16 basalt rumblers which I have to clear every kind of basalt/rumbler named mob in order to spawn, only to find that some other lamer has been waiting for a prat like me to come along and do that for them, and no, they don’t want to group thanks.

Linkage??? Yes. Linkage. All those quests, so many zones, but no real purpose. Now, I happen to know that EQ2 probably hasplenty for me to do there. I’ve just forgotten it. The “!” over NPCs heads went a long way to helping. But it’s still missing something to knit me into the storyline. “Come back later”. Since I’m big on journals and logs, wouldn’t I make a note of that? Some way to get hooked back into storylines I’ve skipped — whether its a mail from NPCs sometimes, or a bartender who’ll direct me towards zones or NPCs where I have unfinished or new business available, or just an entry in my journal that comes back as “Revisit Katrina the Prawn Peeler in Qeynos Harbor” when the right time comes.

So I logged back out of EQ2. One of my new-guild mates left in favor of a slightly lower level guild and asked me if I wanted to join them. I don’t want to leave my guild, but if I were applying for this guild I wouldn’t make the cut so – maybe I should? (Laccy will be pissed, although he’ll reply and say ‘No I won’t mate’ but he lies!).

I fired up Eve to make sure my account was closed. It’s weird. I had no inclination to log in or play Eve, but it still sort of smarted when it said “Account closed”. Weirdo. It’s probably because I miss some of the tunes.

I’d been talking to Bloo about my old MUD language for the Amiga, and showing him a crappy partial port I’d done to Unix (called SMUGL; I was going to post a link but that probably warrants its own post). And I got to that old reminiscing…

So off I went to MUD2.com, but they charge so I decided to really reminisce and headed all the way back to British Legends(an Americanized port of the 1985 version of MUD1, slightly after my time and with a few modernisations, but a very few), and recreated the character I first played MUD as: Lunitac. Alas, I’ve lost his password so when I decided to play again I switched to a more recent name, Lungar. Sadly I got pk’ed rather a lot so I’ve not made much progress. The one guy pk’ing me isn’t very high level, he seems to have another character lurking because his timing is impeccable so that he always gets to kill me in only one or two hits.

All the same, it’s a fun little world – although mostly because its empty. MUD1 vs MUD2 differ mainly by size, MUD1 having 300 rooms and therefore an awful lot of competition for content if there are two players in the level 1-5 bracket at the same time. The game resets every so often to restart but while playing over the weekend I saw quite a few “new” guys get bored of wandering around an empty but nicely described world.

“DerKiwi”s desperately needed care package of tea-bags and Wotsits arrived, thanks a ton man :) Wotsits are excellent munchies for that downtime between coding bursts. Those Wotsits will translate directly into WWIIOL coding fuel :)

I’d ordered a bunch of other stuff too and wasn’t expecting it to arrive for a while but apparently customs don’t hold stuff up so long when its this hot. So we have a prett good spread of junk foods set up in the kitchen here right now :) Wotsits, Pickled Onion Monster Munch, Balti Chicken flavored crisps, Flapjacks (well received) and several Robinsons’ drinks and the general favorite: Bombay trail mix. (I tried to get some of the Tesco’s Thai/Japanese cracker mixes, but apparently they’re an xmas rarity. Humbug)

Tea drinker’s postscript: I noticed that some of the tea-samplers I got had “Earl Grey’s tea”. I’m guessing this is probably a way of explaining why it “tastes like Earl Grey” rather than actually being (and thus tasting exactly like) Earl Grey tea?

Bridge at Remagen: The man who didn’t bomb it

That’s not a criticism, at least not once you’ve read his story. Actually, the whole site is full of some fascinating transcripts from his diaries.

He also relates a very timely incident at Bastogne

Luger Farming

So apparently you do want to discuss RMT concepts as they apply to WWIIOL. Well, there aren’t really any items in WWIIOL, so I think its a bit of a dead concept.

I think making binos available to newbies should be something achieved via loadouts, with an increasing loadout capacity as you rank up, so that when you reach rank X it becomes possible to have gun, ammo, ammo, binos, etc, but until a certain point you get the option of gun + ammo or gun + bino. So newbie player can spawn a rifleman and get one clip of rounds to fire, but he gets the advantage of having binos to help him learn to shoot it. When he wants to run out with gun + ammo (i.e. a few extra clips) he has to drop the bino. But that’s ok, he’s gotten over that initial and most painful hump by then.

When we rolled out paratroopers, I felt that we missed an opportunity for some extra one-time revenue. Mixed in with a few other features, we could have made paratroopers and transport craft a mini-expansion. Something folks pay a one time $9.95 fee to activate but get automatically when they buy a BE box. Everyone can see paratroopers, but to be one you gotta have the expansion option. When UMSes got added, add them on that option (only regular MSPing for the rest of yas).

I don’t think we can sell combat items tho – nothing that puts a price to PvP success. We can’t have Side-Q losing because they have an impoverished player demographic.

We could, maybe, see enhancements like an advanced squad interface, with a small, monthly, per-squad fee. We’d need to provide a fair suite of features to it tho. Maybe built in squad-voice comms hosted by CRS. Maybe offer upto 16 squad decals up for auction so that the top-bidding squads get to have their choice of graphic for their decal each campaign…

This isn’t an official “consideration”.

Woah there, Nelly

Nobody (to my knowledge) is contemplating RMT for WWII Online/Battleground Europe. My discussion of the topic is merely a spin-off of my general interest in game development in general.

Although now you lot have suggested it … $5 for binos and $10 for a map? Hmm.

For those I am about to dissapoint…

I make no apologies: The 6 month torture of Geoffrey “DocDoom” Evans has come to an end. No, he’s still here. No, he’s not been demoted, transferred, relocated, transgendered or endangered.

Last Sunday, Doc turned up at my house to see if I wanted to go for a bite to eat, but I’d just eaten (note: when cooking frozen Mexican dinners, don’t be sparing with the microwave seconds). I’d been getting a few questions about RDP stuff (which I keep as far away from as I can) but mostly people asking about when the vehicle ranks would change.

Since I avoid RDP like a hooker with the plague and a gov. issued biohaz t-shirt, I couldn’t answer the questions, I asked Doc about this. When I wrote the code and modified the database to make the vehicle levels dynamic, I gave Doc a little web-tool for setting the next cycle rank for each vehicle, and I think its tied in with Ramp’s RDP cycle planning tools too.

Apparently, though, I’d never actually plugged this in. So last Thursday, I sat down, looked at the code, modified the cycle-execution perl script to transfer the “next cycle” ranks to “current cycle” column and added the code to notify the host of a vehicle data change.

So much time chasing my tail on CTHLs and working on big thing like brigades and toes… It’s nice to get something small done (Is it me or is this becoming a theme for me lately?). And the rdp script shows my fear and loathing in how elegantly the output data is presented.

The game servers were designed with a decidedly closed perspective. Nobody controls the game but the game. RDP was one of our first big breaks from that, and so I consider the RDP stuff to be a minefield. So the emailed feedback is a little more pleasant than the usual “Done” type notification.

Even though it’s only a small amount of code, its the sort of thing that has every opportunity to create a catastrophe. Naturally it got some testing (the snapshot is from the final testing using live data copied to the beta server). But all the same, once it goes live there is the chance that something “isn’t exactly the same”.

And it’s always gratifying when code, even such a small piece, works straight off the fingers. (It’s about 60-80 lines of code total) It’s been running and doing its thing since last week, and although Doc is going to continue monitoring it well into the next campaign, that’s pretty much the last RDP issue dragging him into the office at wild and crazy hours.

Hoorah for automation (that doesn’t go horribly wrong).

Now he can spend more time in the forums — hopefully with the benefit of many many more regular hours of sleep :)

RMT: the scary place (apparently)

Definitely an option thats underconsidered and unduly resisted… But there’s a lack of sensible questions being asked on this topic.

a) Why do people care whether items are gained by achievement or cash?
b) Should they care?
c) What makes it such a mass-growth industry acquring and selling these items?
d) What are our options?

If your players play your game for a sense of achievement they can draw from progressing through your rule set, then bowing to RMT is guaranteed disaster, like allowing a player to buy additional pieces or squares on a chess board.

You can’t just jump in and start selling items unless the entire of your design can answer “No” to question b. Your RMT-haters will leave, your farmers will leave, and RMT-lovers won’t arrive in droves because paying additional money to you (the developer) has a tainted vibe of feeding the man and the design doesn’t do anything to really attract them if it’s still Old School.

There is real scope for some new answers to question d), and taking the RMT line yourselves is one that has room for exploration – cf Project Entropia. But it’s not everyone’s answer.

I think the real meat lies in question (c). I think game designers continue to focus on episodic, progression-as-achievement oriented content that has to be delivered to you on a schedule and that tries to prevent you viewing-out-of-sequence.

That defines a target audience. In non-interactive fiction, it’s acceptable, but we have translated it wholesale into our multiplayer interactive fiction and assumed its the gold rush.

Around the edges of that target audience are people who could go either way. If there’s a way to skip to the content that they feel like seeing, a way to set the backstory to their encounter with Lady Vox such that instead of wearing leather pants they are wearing Augerberdine Mithril Greaves of Posing, and as long as it’s not going to leave them short of a beer … Well it’s not like they’re spending their money on anything like the gym or golf or something. Sure, I’ll pay you $10 for gold it would take me 3 months to accumulate myself.

So I think Dan’s decree is only half the story (*).

Developers: If you don’t want RMT in your game, design it out or shut up. Recognize that a monster that spawns every 8 hours and drops an item people would pay $500 for is an ATM. And if that’s not the functionality you intended, review your design.

Players: If you don’t want RMT in the games you play, get ready to pay for it – either in compromises to design changes that take it out of the game, or in a loss of the “massive” part of your multiplayer game, or in an increase in subscription fee to pay for the extra policing and management required to keep RMT out of the same-old game.

Or shut up.

I say that’s half the story, Dan follows it up with a second article on the topic. Ok – it seems we’re on a similar page: make content linearly progressive and you’ll get people willing to fast forward with hard cash. Making it expansive is definitely a working alternative, don’t write it off just because SWG flopped. SWG alluded to more depth in its expansiveness which proved to be false. That may have been player expectations (e.g. projecting the flowering of an EQ character from 1 to 60 onto an SWG musician would lead you to be very dissapointed).

It works in WoW – people just don’t notice it as much because it’s hidden in the way player’s just roll up a new character to get at different content or a different take on it. (Yes, SWG should have done that from the start too to complement the expansive-not-progressive nature).

To be honest, I think Dan gets to sounding a little too much like all games should just sell items. I think he’s missing that amongst the existing customerbase of MMO consumers RMT is a majority complaint. Fact is, there are probably untapped customers who would balance it out. But that just comes back to designing games to be either item-sale or item-gain, and doing it with the knowledge that if you make your NPCs into mobile ATMs then you are making and item-sale system.

If you do go item-sale, and deliberately build a game like Project Entropia where items are purchased with real world money, you do have a whole new bunch of concerns. How is the law going to deal with posession issues? Can the police turn up and raid your hardware to investigate property theft? Do you have to build a leasing contract and only lease the items characters hold to the players?

Uh oh

Thanks for doing your shopping online at Albertsons.com. In an effort to focus our attention on our in-store shopping experience, this service will no longer be available in your area as of July 21st. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you. 

Bugger, I may actually have to learn to drive.

Every time I’ve had groceries delivered, someone from my complex has stopped me in the next day or two and asked me about it. They’ve invariably been interested in getting their shopping delivered too. It’s just so damn convenient, especially if (like many of them) you’ve got a fairly long commute to/from work, and its nice to be able to get home, wash some dishes, have your groceries arrive, unpack them and cook dinner.

But next time I’d bump into them they’d tell me how difficult they found the website.

It was so nearly there. It’s got great concepts and a couple of very excellent features, but what it lacks is in the final follow through. I have shopped albertsons on the following browsers: IE6 XP, IE7 XP, IE7 Vista, IE6 w2000, Firefox XP, Firefox 2000, Firefox Linux, Konqueror Linux, Netscape Linux. All of them run into the same set of bugs. The one time I talked to someone in Albertsons support, she spent 10 minutes going through, essentially, their BS list of things that might make the customer go away. “Nope, I’ve tried that”, “I don’t have any cookies, I *just* installed vista, this is my first visit to the site with this system, there are no cookies. This is the first site I’ve visited”, “This machine doesn’t have a firewall”, “This is a Linux machine that doesn’t have a registry to corrupt”.

I think in the end tho, all those little errors and – probably a very poor choice of hire to lead the marketing of the service – are what makes it not just a not-great experience to shop with but an absolutely terrible site to have to use. If I was driving, I’d have quit using it after the 3rd week, despite being an online storewhore.

CCP = CRS Iceland?

I forgot to close my petition for reimbursement of gear lost to the network outage, and here was the reply I got 9 hours later (glad I didn’t decide to wait for a reply :)

Hi,
Unfortunately, we here at EVE Customer Support are at this point totally overrun with petitions. We cannot keep up, and must therefore unfortunately send everyone this response, where we ask if you are still having problems or if your case is solved at this point.

If your problem is still valid, then we apologise and ask you to reply to this and we’ll try and help you as quickly as we are able.
If not, then please ignore this completely, and the petition will close on its own.
Furthermore, even if your issue is still valid, we would like to ask you if you feel it is important enough to pursue, or if it is minor enough to ignore in order for us to be able to give better (and quicker) service to those with real game-stopping issues.

We really do apologise for this request, but at this point we have no other option.
We hope that you are continuing having fun playing EVE.

Best Regards,
The EVE Online Support Team

I forwarded it to Bloo, who subsequently had to be taken to hospital.

My unabated UI ramblings appear to have finally reached the ears of Killer, Gophur was asking me about wxWidgets earlier and why we hadn’t gone with that instead of developing Phui (for those scratching their heads, the Bloo reference was a segway back onto the WWIIOL topic).

I believe we looked at it and Vandal/Rickb decided against it because (a) it looks like the operating system OS, which isn’t what we want and (b) it expects to be the main loop of the application, (c) no obvious interop with full-screen OpenGL contexts.

On the flip side, its portable, its well supported, it has a good community behind it and it has a pretty good UI editor. We were originally basing PHUI on Xul, but the lack of a decent XUL editor left us adrift and we ended up with something else. (Another example of the Mozilla team crapping at the dinner table; lets design a cool UI language, and then promote how uneccessary a UI tool for editing it is because editing XML by hand is l33t3r! Mozilla devs are as ghey as generalisations. Except the Thunderbird team, who are gods amongst developers and so do not fear the Microsoft the way other Mozzies/Netscapiers do)

So we don’t want the game to be a windowed opengl context (I may be entirely wrong in believing that there can still be a performance hit for that), and if we make the opengl context full screen, Windows components won’t render infront of it, right?

And wxWidgets does seem to be skinnable, although I haven’t seen documentation on, say, stylesheets to make it easier or anything like that, and having to manually “skin” everything would be a dead stop.

As for the main loop part, I’m guessing the solution is to let the UI go ahead and be the main loop of the parent thread, and simply make the client a higher-priority second thread (or some variation thereof) and pass messages between the two. Slightly less efficient? Maybe not with today’s OSes and hardware.

Right. Off to do some more of Lost Legend of Lavastorm (I’m gathering bone shards) and I might stop by the new adventure pack again before bed.

Supper is Pizza Hut Pepperoni Lovers and Wingstop spicy bbq wings (boneless, I’ve never been crazy on meat on the bone, bad experience one time).