Beware! Coder art!

So, Guided Action

The basic premise is: devise a robust set of atoms from the current mass of variables, which tend to indicate selections with a good chance of action and a relatively short time to battle.

Secured By Vista!


Martini has two development boxes, one of them a Vista box. He called me in with a problem. He’d installed something and was trying to compile the sample code, but the files were marked read only. Somehow, he couldn’t remove the read only flag.

He is:

– the only user on the box,
– logged in as the only user on the box,
– a member of the administrators group,
– the owner of the file,
– the owner of the directory,
– the owner of the directorys above it

When he tries to remove the read-only permission from the folder/children or just one of the files, up pop the sequence of dialogs and windows telling him “Someone on your computer is trying to do something that requires administrative approval. We need you to provide your approval [continue]” and “This app is trying to do this thing. Do you approve? [Continue]” (ahh, Microsoft must have played WWIIOL 1.6)

Then finally up comes the progress dialog, the progress bars whizzes along, and then the progress dialog goes away.

Aside from some pretty dialogs, that is all that happens.

Finally the penny drops. Silly, silly man, Martini. Trying to write to something under C:\Program Files\App Directory\.

Now I wonder if this is just a nasty default to protect vista against legacy installers, or if it is something that installers can overwrite. We could not find a way to make these directories writable. That is gonna be awfully inconvenient.

Vista free!

Sorry Mickeysoft, you got me with ME; be sure and drop me a note when you ship the next real Windows upgrade.

Don’t do it…

From, red higlighting mine.

Main Entry: vis·ta
Pronunciation: 'vis-t&
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian, sight, from visto, past participle of vedere to see, from Latin vidEre — more at WIT
1 : a distant view through or along an avenue or opening : PROSPECT
2 : an extensive mental view (as over a stretch of time or a series of events)

Contrast with:

Main Entry: 1prac·ti·cal
Pronunciation: 'prak-ti-k&l
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Late Latin practicus, from Greek praktikos, from prassein to pass over, fare, do; akin to Greek peran to pass through — more at FARE
1 a : of, relating to, or manifested in practice or action : not theoretical or ideal <a practical question> <for all practical purposes> b : being such in practice or effect : VIRTUAL <a practical failure>
2 : actively engaged in some course of action or occupation <a practical farmer>
3 : capable of being put to use or account : USEFUL <he had a practical knowledge of French>
4 a : disposed to action as opposed to speculation or abstraction b (1) : qualified by practice or practical training <a good practical mechanic> (2) : designed to supplement theoretical training by experience
5 : concerned with voluntary action and ethical decisions <practical reason>
prac·ti·cal·i·ty /"prak-ti-'ka-l&-tE/ noun
prac·ti·cal·ness /'prak-ti-k&l-n&s/ noun

Hopefully Vista will just turn out to be XP what ME was to 98.

Mmm, keyboard…

When I started here, they gave me two PCs with a single monitor, keyboard and mouse, and a little ‘KVM’ switch. Wonders why the host coders of days gone by sometimes seemed a little oblivious to what happened in the game.

To switch systems you pressed scroll-lock + scroll-lock + cursor up. And I hate repetition. I believe I’ve said so before. I coulda gotten a second monitor, but the desks here don’t make it very practical so I bought myself an LCD. A new day was born for me. I hadn’t realized just how much of a burden working on the one pokey monitor had been. I had a sudden burst of Getting Stuff Done.

Time passes, things break, get moved around, I change offices. I wind up with one Microsoft Natural keyboard old school and one non-ergo/split Logitech keyboard I borrowed from Bloo’s office. To cap it off, at home I’m using one of those f**king annoying Microsoft keyboards where some f**king idiot clevery added a key you have to press to make the function keys act as function keys.

More wiretap

I’ve added some RDP-related data to Wiretap (factory stuff). I didn’t get around to adding the RDP progress counters I wanted to add, I’ll do that tomorrow along with some information about captures. The flaw in the capture idea is that I don’t currently write an entry for facilities changing hands due to fallback or allied facilities being auto-converted because of the AB. I’ll look at adding code for that to the host, since it ought to be logging it for administrative purposes anyway.

Found an ancient bug relating to how the game code handled brownouts. Brownouts are when a player disconnects for long enough that the server is about to assume they aren’t reconnecting, but they have re-opened a connection. This caused a race condition which caused an error which caused the particular host to shut itself down with a message “This is bad”. (Not one of mine)

Found it, fixed it, tested it, brought the game down, released it, monitored it while I did the wiretap stuff. I suspect this may have occasionally caused auto-despawns, but I won’t know that for sure until I have more time to research it.

Rapid action

Ours is never going to be a game with “instant action”. It might seem a minor semantic but its one that worries me a lot. It’s a chasm waiting for people to fall into. In BF2 or CS, the particular map you are playing tells you everything you need to know. Being a good team player might require you to absorb a little more information, but if you focus on fragging the right side you can be “good enough”.

WWIIOL web geeks needed…

If’n you’re not a WWIIOL player or’n you’ve never built a web page, this’n isn’t for you. An’ if’n you try to read’n on, I’m promise’n I’ll do my damn’est ‘n write it all like this’n.

MMORPG Devs: Grow up.

Running isn’t cool. Maybe the trek from Highhold keep to Freeport makes you think of the blonde-bombshell who used to jog past your house in a tight little outfit every morning?

But she was jogging for personal gain not because jogging is cool. And chances are, today, she’s discovered there is a pill she can take that obviates the need for jogging, or she’s bought herself a treadmill, goes to a gym, or has become comfortable enough in life that she forgoes jogging entirely. Most people go jogging to meet a physical need. There is a game where physical needs are simulated for people who are too lazy to deal with their real-life ones, it’s called The Sims. I’ve never played it.

Discovering new areas in an MMO is cool and fun. Revisiting old ones not so cool. Being made to drag your ass through zone after zone/area after area full of grey mobs that you were forced to kill by the 100 until you were sick of them… Somehow that ain’t so fun.

I think the idea that running through old zones, reminiscing about past times, is “developer fantasy”.

Vanguard: Saga of Whispers

I’m going to break with tradition and say something unusual. I’ve been hearing some good things about Vanguard. If Vanguard is a saga, then these whispers and annecdotes are novellette at best, with the tale of “broken” as bookcovers. At the very least, beyond the new-player areas these have been sightings of some non-rote quests, some of which actually sound like they’ll be fun when they work.

For instance, Granik related to me the tale of a quest to befriend an Ogre tribe, which had some well thought out storyline and a couple of quite interesting sub-quests. Unfortunately, the Ogres are agro to you, and so the storyline was interspersed with nasty deaths flaunting Vanguard’s masochistic death penalty.

Although I’ve played Vanguard, the things I’ve heard since then tell me that Work Has Been Done, and it would be unfair to use my experience to comment on all but a few areas that appear to have remained constant:

Vanguard does have zones, but they are done in such a way as to appear zoneless – you can see the terrain in the surrounding zones and beyond, and aside from actually entering a contained zone like a dungeon, you didn’t see cheesey zone “corridors” or “gates” like you do in other games. (The zones in EQ2 didn’t seem cheesey to me after EQ1, until I played Vanguard)

They’ve also chosen some strange deviations from “The Vision” that attracted many of us in the first place. For instance, at one point, we were lead to believe that Vanguard would be laying the smack down on inventory, making what we carried somewhat more realistic. But you have four inventory modes: Adventuring, Gathering, Crafting and Diplomacy. By switching modes, you instantly switch clothing, equipment, etc. So you are actually carrying or wearing four full loads of gear. And, each mode has its own packs. Your gathering mode has bags full of wood or stone and bags of picks, axes, saws, etc; your crafting mode, meanwhile, has a bag of tools like sieves, hammers, planes, tongs, etc, etc, bags of crafting neccessities like oils, salves, thread, etc.

This is actually kind of cool, but its the kind of upgrade I’d look for in WoW. Its not roleplay immersive, it’s gaming immersive.

On the other hand, the Vanguard “caravan” system means that if you get a regular group together, you can share exp so that its easier to keep co-level and together (since I’m hearing claims that you can easily spend upward of a real-time hour travelling between parts of the gameworld, I imagine this would be vital).

Vanguard did something smart in their beta. Every time you completed a quest, it presented a dialog asking you to rate the quest. When I first played, the newbie area I started in had just been released, and the quests were mundane. Others then have said they’re not bad but they are very, very generic. And I found them to be full of tediously “go and come back” stuff. You can’t put your crown jewels up front, but these quests were boring.

I played another month later, and the quests were slightly more polished, but I got the feeling that Sigil had set the bar for the 1-5 votes at 3. Those of you who have netflix or gamefly or something similar, when you rate videos on a 1-5 scale, do you use “3” to indicate “nuh, it’s ok I guess”? 1 being the lowest, I rate a quest 2 if it actually bothers me or I have problems. 1 if it really sucks. 4 is if a quest actually wakes me up off auto-run-here-and-back-pilot, 5 if I will be doing that one again on my next character.

But a zone full of 3s is a zone that reminds me I haven’t finished that Heritage quest yet…

Vanguard has flying mounts and, to its credit, it has vertical content to match. There are rumors of little flying islands and areas only flying mounts can reach. But there’s a general bug with mounts in vanguard that causes you to be dismounted on zoning. This includes flying mounts. As such the players who’ve flown them have worked out you need to either fly low enough not to die from falling damage, or very high so that you have time to remount before …. impacting.

I’ll be interested to see Vanguard in 8-12 months. The reports of brokeness are consistent with those that surrounded EQ1. Not counting Meridian 59, etc, EQ1 was the first MMORPG that I really got into, and I was too caught up in being a bard and exploring the lore, well and the lack of any other similar game to play, to be overwhelmed by its early brokeness.

I had a hard time trying to figure who the Vanguard player is. I hear lots of rumors of experiences of things like player-owned boats for travel, flying mounts. Now I’ve heard some details from players who’ve experienced these first hand in stress tests. But otherwise these reports seem to come from the ether. They’ve borne true in the light of stress tests, so people weren’t making them up. But who were these reports coming from? The answer seems to be hardcore powergamers. Aren’t they supposed to be the ones who ruined EQ1?

My hunch is that day 1 V:SoH is going to be primarily populated by the worst kind of players – the people who believe it was other people who ruined EQ1 (or AC, or …). The highly outspoken community that has surrounded V:SoH since day 1… Well stop there and analyze that for a moment. EQ1 is supposed to have been ruined by Verant/SOE listening to the highly outspoken whining of … well you see where I’m going with this?