Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Just posting to say merry xmas!

Sadly I don't have much to show for a xmas update. But if you're a Z-Net I user, I released a small secret option for it for xmas, over on the Z-Net website.

EDIT: I decided to release another secret Z-Net I option for xmas, since the other shouldn't need to be used much, making kind of worthless to more then enough users. It's edited into the same news post as the other one on the Z-Net website.

Enjoy! Happy holidays!

News: Z-Net 3 Progress... Part 2

Sunday, November 25, 2012

In the time since my last post, I've found that I've become somewhat used to a routine of working on a project only a little bit here and there each day, getting little to maybe nothing done each day. I'm surprised how used to working this slow I've gotten. I still want to dive in more so, but my slow work plan is working so far, so great!

Mentioned in my last post, I have been working on creating a custom window frame. I wasn't having much luck for awhile, getting stuck on early stages of this task. But I finally learned enough to start making more educated guesses about the problems I was facing, and I finally figured things out myself. From there it's been only mildly rocky. But for the most part things have gone smoothly to the point were I got all the basics of the idea implemented with the custom window titlebar and borders. In my development project for this code, things look and work almost exactly how I could want them to now. From here, it's just fine tuning things. Like getting rid of a bug or 2, and covering a few loose ends.

I'm not certain what I want to get working on next. Either custom drawing some client controls like I would want, outlining the Z-Net 3 design I have in my head into a resource editor, maybe IRC message encryption, or tinkering with how I might go about addon support.

The latter 2 because it would be a change of pace from what I have been working on. The design outline, just because I'm thinking it might be good to get the things out of my head at this stage, just so I can fine tune my ideas as I'm working other things. And the first, because I learned a lot with the title bar/frame stuff, and I should be able to apply what I learned to that.

But I have time to think about all that, as I still have some work left to do with my current task.

I'd post a pic of the work on my custom frame stuff, but all the work has been on the code. Not the imagery itself. For development I've been using Bitmaps from the skin files of some commercial skinning libraries. I don't think their would be any copyright issues with me just posting a pic of me using them outside of their intended libraries, but I'd rather not show it just so that the frame looking like that isn't expected. I don't want to mock up my own quick crummy bitmaps either. Sadly, this type of work only looks as good as the images I display with it. I may change my mind about this later.

News: Z-Net 3 Progess

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I have begun working on Z-Net 3, but mainly just preliminary stuff. First on my list is what I expected to be the tougher challenge. I want Z-Net 3 to have a nice looking, stylish interface. None of the blandness of the zbattle style GUI. Not quite even the mIRC UI that ZN 1 and 2 had. It basically means I have to create my own skin, and before that I have to make the code support using such a skin. This means I have to use bitmaps everywhere. I've started with the frame and title bar. This part has been extremely tricky for me because it uses code and API functions that I have never had to use before, so it's all new to me. Making things more difficult is the fact that I can find zero help for doing this online. The closest topics I can find are about replacing the entire window with a simple bitmap skin, which isn't what I want and helps me very little. Such interfaces aren't resizeable. To make a resizeable interface you have to have at least 8 different bitmaps. The 4 corners, top, bottom, and both sides. I was quickly able to display the bitmaps as such, and tile or stretch them as needed when the window was resized. But I've been going in circles trying to basically get the parts of the bitmaps that I would want to be transparent and able to be clicked through to whats behind the window, to be as such. This is a necessary thing in order for the window to look attractive, else it will have to be a dull squared, 90 degree corner piece of garbage. Other programs do this, so mine should be able to as well. But for whatever reason, EVERYTHING I try fails, and there is just no help to be found yet.

Ideally, I wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. You would think that on the net there are probably several libraries to choose from to do such a thing, that I could use in Z-Net 3, or at least use to learn my mistakes. But nope. Everything is a "pay me some ridiculous amount of money", un-freeware-friendly, piece of crap. Ive tried a few things. All in the form of a binary dll, pretty much. Some look great and do exactly what I would want, some not so much. So far only one has any hope, being USkin.dll. For a short time the company that made it offered a free version. Its not optimal. So far it looks glitchy and flickery in its demos. But atm, free is free, and maybe I can add some code to negate that stuff. But so far that doesn't want to work either, even when compiled with a simple stock demo project. The program crashes after I run it, and atm I'm unsure why.

My hope and plan for now is to just try and get USkin working, and move on for now. Ideally down the line I would hope I would figure out the issues with my own code and use that instead. But right now I'm eager to stop spinning my wheels and move on to something else. A lot of what will be in ZN3's code will be easy. Things I've done before with ZNI. So I'm less concerned with certain things, and more concerned with things such as protocol encryption, self updating software, addon support, etc. Things I haven't done much before, if at all.

If all goes well with the interface, I'll need to be looking for a artist to help design the UI. I could probably do it myself, but I'd rather not. I'm sure my UI would look good, but I'm not an artist, so it likely wouldn't look as good as it could. Once this project really gets rolling, I'll probably look for a website guy as well. It might be nice to have some team members for a change, outside of mods. But that's for a future day.

News: Not Even 2 Weeks...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

... and I caved in, and brought Z-Net I back. Yes, you read that correctly! Z-Net I is now back online. But there has been a big change made for me to do so. You can read more about it on the Z-Net website.

Z-Net News Page

News: Screenshots of My IRC Client

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

There's still some polish left to be done, but it could now be considered as being finished. Well, I'm not sure I consider it finished yet because I know of several things left I would like to add or do better. At the very least though, it's now kind of screen shot worthy. But as I've mentioned before, don't expect much.

This first screenshot shows the tab for configuring all the basic settings for the client. It's not a pretty layout. I hate organizing controls in a dialog like this, because you add one thing, and everything gets messed up. Pay no attention to the button at the bottom. That's just a shortcut I added to open the settings ini file, for convenience. All the controls work as expected. Some disable/enable at connect/disconnect. The Nick Name box will send the /NICK command when the name in it is different and you press enter while connected.

This second screenshot shows what a chatroom window looks like, complete with a few demo lines. Also seen is the use of colors, both for text and the background of the controls. The url link seen at the top is underlined, because it does infact work and open up your browser just by clicking on it.

Whats not seen is Right Click context menus. One pops up when clicking the name of a tab, allowing you to select to close that tab. One shows when clicking the chat buffer to copy any selected text to the clipboard. And another shows when clicking the nick name list, showing a short list of basic IRC options you might expect from doing so. The Send button is disabled only because there is no text being typed. The server window and PM windows aren't shown, but they look exactly like the shown chat window, except without a nick list.

Yea. Nothing extraordinary. But it IS an IRC client. And should serve well as a base for a project like Z-Net 3.

What I have left to do on it is. I'd like to add code for allowing the window to be resized. And thus resizing the controls appropriately. The auto reconnect code still has issues. I'd like to comb through the code and comment more things. A few bits of code could stand to be refined. Also, unlike most IRC clients, this doesn't support DCC transfers yet. I'm uncertain if/when I want to work on that any time soon. I'd want it for Z-Net 3, I'm just not sure I consider it a basic IRC client feature, or that I feel like the hassle of going through adding it. Doing so is an entire sub project.

As far as releasing this. Well, in this form, it's grown beyond what I'd want to release as the commercial project I've mentioned. I could make the program simpler to use, and it could stand to see attention given to it to make it look more appealing. So if I go with that plan, I would likely copy the code to a new project and start peeling it back.

Now that this is shown, keep in mind that Z-Net 3 will likely not look anything like this. I have a different layout in mind for that. With this IRC client now at this stage, I may soon start working on the GUI for Z-Net 3. But due to WoW, lately I've been having a hard time getting as much done with programming as I would want. You can even see I used WoW running as a background in the screenshots. If I do start working on it soon, it may be awhile before I try porting the IRC client code into it as like I mentioned, I still have more I want to refine with it.

News: Z-Net I Closed For Good

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sadly. Since to few users actually read the website, I figure I should post about this here too. Today after much personal turmoil, I decided it shut down Z-Net I. For good. None of the only if mods are online stuff.

The decision on this comes in part from several things. It was a nightmare to moderate. To few users acted even remotely respectable on it. To few users cared to see it thrive. People originally cheating the poll, faking more interest in the project then there was. My inability to distance myself from the project while knowing people would be misusing and abusing the program I put all my hard work into. Fact that it was attracting the wrong type of users than what I wanted. No community was, or even could start to thrive with it. The fact that it was making me come across as an asshole or tyrant. And well, everything about the project lost all it's fun for me.

I gave people every opportunity I could to see it stick around, but few if any took that opportunity. I've just gotten to the point where I want the project firmly in my past, so I can move forward, and do so with a happy enthusiasm. I hoped to have this program around until the day I might release Z-Net 3, but as it turned out, that just could not happen. I don't like the idea of leaving the few good users high and dry with no place to play, and an uncertainty if I will create the all around better project I would want. But it just can't be helped. And to those users. I'm sorry.

Don't put any faith, or much hope in it. But I suppose it could come back if enough people applied to be mods. But I tried that before though. Coaxing users into applying with the possibility of closing down the project looming overhead. The apps fell way short of what was needed, and 1 to none of those even worked out.

I've considered keeping it around for a small "invite only" community of users. But I just don't see that working out to well. And managing who and who is not part of that community would be to much trouble.

So for the people who might stick around the Z-Net community, you have Z-Net 3 to look forward to. But as stated elsewhere. There's not going to be a rush on it. It's important that I do better job on it then I've ever done with a project. And to do so, it should take time.

My ideas for it are starting to get more fixed, which I suppose is progress. But I haven't really worked on any of it yet. Just the IRC client I've been making to help be a backbone of such projects. That project however is coming along well still. And while its not the most impressive IRC client, it's way more solid then Z-Net I. It's at a point where I'm finding little left to do on it, outside of cosmetic things, or the few annoying bits I've been putting off as long as possible.

If I do release that IRC client, it would be with the goal as being IRC made as simple as possible, and being the most newb friendly client. I've recently tried many many IRC clients, and several claim to be the true newb clients. But honestly, none are. IRC can be made more newb friendly then that. Does it need to be? I'm not sure. But it can, and my client would have to have some gimmick or reason to be used instead of others.

I'd want to post a screenshot of it, but it's kind of cosmetically ugly atm. Hopefully I can take care of that issue soon.

Anyway. To those who won't stick around this blog of the Z-Net website now. Goodbye, and good luck!

News: Progress On My IRC Client

Thursday, October 04, 2012

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working on a IRC client for the purpose of writing better IRC code to use with my projects, rather than the old dirty code I used in the past. There's plenty of IRC clients out there to choose from, and I by no means think all of them are lacking and I could bring something better. I'm just writing a IRC client purely because without doing so, it would be hard to write the code I want properly, when it comes to it having everything I need for my projects.

But with that said, when I feel I'm done with it, I'm not sure yet on what I would plan to do with it. I certainly won't keep it to myself as yet another unreleased project. But it has been such a great learning experience, I'm considering extending that experience even further. What's on my mind is, that since I'm so far so happy with the code, I'm considering releasing it commercially just for the experience of doing so. Not for any extraordinary price, or even a moderate one. Probably $1-$5 at the most. Just enough to get to delve into new areas with releasing programs. Learn a little bit about selling a piece of software, both in advertizement and income, and programmaticly with trials and registration keys. It's stuff I've wondered about here and there, but just dismissed because I felt it's to far above my head. Which anymore is not how I like thinking. I'm trying to take my development skills to the next level, and this is a new level itself.

Now for those who may find concern with these thoughts regarding my other projects like the Z-Net's. Regardless of the outcome of what I do with this IRC client, those projects will remain just as free as they always have been. That said though, of course I would hope the experience would go well, and lead me into releasing something else more serious, commercially.

Still, it's not like I made up my mind on releasing the IRC client like that yet. I may deem it to big of a headache, or scrap the idea for some other reason. If I do lean that direction, I'll just release it here like my other projects.

Now on to my progress with it.

It's starting to resemble a real IRC client now. Despite me trying to take it slow, it's progressing quite fast. I'm going out of my comfort zone to learn new things, and there have been some days where I was stuck on various things all day. But unlike years ago when I was still learning the basics, my skill and experience is now enough to know when persevering through difficulty on something will work out. Often times it's a difficult balance trying to remain interested when you're unable to make progress, and you can't find any useful help. But lately I've learned a lot even in those such situations.

Right now my IRC client connects to a server, like any should. Remains stable through any activity. Has a decent framework setup for all of the basic aspects of such a program. No more godzilla sized functions, and code that is now a lot more thoroughly thought out and refined before moving on. It supports chat rooms and private messages having their own windows, by way of tabs. I added colored text support that's even more refined than ZNI or EQCLP. Users using colored text complies with the same standard mIRC uses, so you would see such colored text just as intended, including text background color. I have events for most of the non-numeric IRC messages in, and a few of the numerics themselves. I now have the nicklists fully working. And it auto join's a list of channels that users supply.

Mostly what I have to do now, other then to refine my code as I think about it, is get the connect retry code working properly, because it's buggy. Saved settings, probably through an ini file. Beyond that, mostly just minor stuff, and adding more unique event responses to all the message types. My goal for it is to just be a basic IRC client, but I'm unsure as of yet on what aspects I consider basic.

It's not going to wow anyone, since it's just a basic IRC client, but hopefully soon I'll post a couple screen shots or a video.

With it going so well, I need to think more about the Z-Net 3/Z-Band projects, as soon I may have little in my way preventing me from moving forward on one of them. I should probably narrow some of my choices down to some polls. But after the way my last poll went, I don't know if I could trust the results. But such a thing may not go to well simply because both projects would appeal to people who don't come to my blog. So the results would be off.

News: My Current Projects

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I went into it more on the Z-Net website, but as I announced there I am dropping the Z-Net I project. Reasons aside, what this means is that the plans I had before to start upgrading ZNI past a clone of zbattle once I felt I got all the issues fixed, are now scrapped. I no longer have plans to do so. And as far as fixing issues with it as is goes, well I might do so here and there, but don't count on it. Also what this means is I won't be moderating it anymore myself. There will still be mods, and I will still take applications for more mods, I just won't be handling it myself. Keep in mind though that the rules are still present, even if your not warned or banned as quickly as before. I worked overboard before to help try to establish in users minds that there are in fact rules to follow for proper conduct when using the program, and that overworking went on far to long, eventually taking its toll on me. The project simply stopped being fun, and just became about babysitting a bunch of idiots.

Moving on now. I did enjoy coding at times on that project, but it was hard to do so with the limits I had to place on myself in order to help get the program to be as good of a quality as I could get it. Coding fun for me comes from doing new stuff with code that I've never done before. Not combing over my code over and over again trying to crack bugs and issues. Both major times I worked on that project, I was rushing through it, as it were. Back in 2010 it was because I was challenging myself to do it in 7 days, and earlier this year it was because users had lost zbattle and needed somewhere else to go as soon as they could get it. So I didn't really allow myself much time to catch issues as I was designing it or just write something more properly before the code was out of hand and in need of a rewrite. To its credit, the ZNI code works shockingly well, for what feels like code held together Scotch tape and bubble gum.

Now though, I've decided to move onto a new project. One I can take my time with. One I can actually try and improve my skill with by not taking a short cut when I know a professional would do it another way. The new projects goal is as of yet still undecided. It's either going to be a true Z-Net 3, which mostly means support for emus other than just ZSNES and a Game Room list that's a lot less of a moderation nightmare than the zbattle style. Or it's going to be Z-Band, hopefully with a different GUI and overall design than ZNI. While it would probably be to much of a task, it could also be a combo of both. Managing Z-Band compatibility and writing server code with just ZSNES in mind would be enough work as is. Doing so with other emus and popular games for them would just be crazy.

Right now though I'm just going back to basics. Lately I've been working on new IRC code. The IRC code I use in ZNI was ported over from the EQC Launchpad project, and even there it was ported over from a very simple MS-DOS console based IRC client I wrote back when I was just trying to get the gist of how to even go about writing such a thing. It wasn't a very well done program or anything, by any means. It just more or less got the job done well enough. The new IRC code I'm working on I'm writing almost all from scratch, using what I learned from the old code I used in those 3 projects, and every part is being done in a more stable well thought out manner. I'm writing the code along with a basic IRC client as I feel I have to, to understand exactly how I want it to be used so I can refine it more as I go. There would likely be little reason to want it, but I may release a binary for the thing once I feel it's done. I don't plan to go open source with it, but I'm happy now knowing I could if I wanted to. I would never do so with ZNI, that's how ugly the code is. Still though I guess that doesn't exclude making my next project a team project if I desired it, as the ZNI code has also made me unwilling to do that. But even then that may not be enough. When other people start doing the work, that means less fun for me. And of course I've had bad experiences with team projects over the net. Well, I'm not going to make up my mind on that stuff now, and instead I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Other than the IRC code, I was bored one night and made a mock up program for theoretical new GUI elements for a new Z-Net/Z-Band client. It's nice to see that I can do some of the things with the GUI that I would have wanted to do with ZNI. The mock up is in no way worth showing a picture of though, as I'm really leaving myself open on design ideas as long as I can. It could end up as a tricky balance between retaining the ease of use of the zbattle style GUI as much as possible, but also making something more modern or trying to innovate in some ways. I don't want to fall into making a mIRC clone either.

Ideally the program would look and function so well, it would feel like you can't believe such a thing wasn't made years ago. Like how did we ever get by without it? lol. Or maybe it's so simple, it seems genius! haha. I know, that's a bit of a stretch. But the higher I aim, the better the result! Hopefully... Even if I don't expect that much.

News: Z-Net I Released

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I've released the new, and final version of Z-Net I.

Along with this new version, I've removed the recent ban of the Brazilian IP addresses, and should soon remove the restriction of requiring a mod to be online for the server to be online.

To learn more, follow the link below to the Z-Net news page.

Z-Net Website News

News: Next New Version of Z-Net Upcoming

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I've recently been working on Z-Net a lot. Ever since I had to instate the requirement for a mod to be around for the server to be online I've been working to add various, sometimes minor changes or improvements with regards to how it effects moderating. Doing just that got me interested enough in the program again to find and fix other minor issues while I waited for feedback about the major bugs.

I haven't wanted to release a new version unless it contained a bug fix for the major bugs, and sadly with the player base being largely Brazilian, feedback just wasn't good if even given at all. Thankfully though, with the help of a couple users (Tallgeese and JacerX) I was finally given some info to get me started on the most major remaining issue, and I now think there's a good chance I've fixed it!

The timing is probably good, as I also didn't want to get the program promoted that much until it was more stable. And thanks to the end of summer and the recent ban of several major Brazilian IP ranges, that user count has got pretty low.

I've never been good at promotion. And as Ive said before, this project was for the community and meant to be maintained by the community, not me. But I'm probably going to make an attempt at promotion soon. I have no idea what I'm going to do differently then anything I've tried in the past though.

The latest version is now in private beta testing, and hopefully won't stay in that phase to long. The new version, once public, will still be a public beta as I'm sure the limited private beta tester pool it has won't catch all the issues. If all works well with this once its public, the next major version will be the 1.0 release. Past the 1.0 release, new features and major changes could start being added.

3D Gaming Tech and Speculations

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I didn't plan to write another follow up on the subject, but I've now recently watched the Oculus Rift KickStarter project end at almost 10 times its funding goals, and feel the significance of that warrants mentioning. It shows the demand for this type of hardware that until now we have had nothing concrete to raise our voice in support of.

Now, looking to the future with advancements in projects like the Oculus Rift and the Euclideon Unlimited Detail engine, what can we expect next? And when?

The Oculus Rift previously seemed to have been indicated for a early 2013 release of a consumer model, and with a higher res display. But in reading recent interviews and Q&As it now seems like it's slated for a Q3-Q4 2013 release. It's sad to have to wait longer for this dream hardware, but there's probably no helping it. After wading through pointless question after pointless question, or the same questions getting asked several times, finally there has been some light shed on the question of how much the consumer version will cost. But that light is kind of dim. I'm sure it has been assumed by many like me that the $300 price tag of the KickStarter dev units was going to be the price for the consumer project as well. But as far as the team behind it indicates, that price does not reflect the price of the consumer model. This could mean it would be cheaper, but it's far more likely going the other way. They're generating hype with a lower price, and will probably jack it up on us just assuming we won't mind. Now the consumer model will have better hardware inside of it, seemingly warranting a bigger price. But that would be approaching the situation with HMD's wrong. The problem with HMD tech until now was it being outside of the consumer price range for anything decent. Anything higher then $300 for this thing will keep it marketed for a very slim crowd. Not all of us like paying more then that for our gadgets. Just hardcore computer geeks with no girlfriends/wives spending money on things like unnecessary video cards and CPU's, maybe family's on a TV that several people can enjoy at once, and a few idiots with smart phones. $300 for this type of gadget is the most reasonable price, and what HMD's really need. Great effort should be made to make sure the consumer model goes no higher to make sure it's as successful and popular as it could be.

But realistically, I think they will try selling it for around $400-$500 based on the higher resolution display. And it's already been stated they are not going to make different models for different price ranges/resolutions. So we won't have any tiered options to look forward to. The feedback from people who have used this has been strong (and in no way seems like filtered praise or people getting paid to say positive things). But that can only go so far. The truth is, this tech doesn't show very well in pics and videos. So it has a huge marketing hurdle to try and convince people that $400-$500 for something completely unseen before by most people, and something that video/picture does not do justice, is worth it.

So it will ether come out around this time next year with a $400-$500 price tag, far less fanfare then it deserves, with higher resolution screens, and be basically only purchased by a smaller fraction of the users who would be interested. Or it will be bumped up to $350 with its current screens, and draw more attention than it would have otherwise and probably everyone will have at least a friend of a friend with one. I tacked on an extra $50 just because I think they will that. They claim they're barely breaking even on the dev units right now.

Well, with Euclideons Unlimited Detail engine, its been over a year now, and still nothing. Well, almost nothing. They recently finally added content to their website. But to every gamers surprise, they make no mention of video games at all. Anywhere. Their entire site seems to be about some geological mapping BS that 99% of their fans and critics alike, couldn't care less about. It would seem like they decided to screw over gamers and refocus the tech just for that. But I don't think it's the case. There are reports that they're just branching out the engine into other fields as they add the staff to do so. The engine as it exist now lacks things needed for gaming, like anything related to motion of the graphics. At this stage the engine is better suited for something like this geological stuff that doesn't need motion. So it makes sense for a eager new company to be wanting to put their tech into use in anyway, as early as possible and possibly start earning money as such.

So with that said, why the silence still on the gaming front? Well, besides their arrogant power position of dangling the carrot on a stick for us, and them honestly having no obligation to supply us with any info. They're probably gearing up for something significant to show from the techs advancement in the past year. Most likely it's either a new, and downloadable demo like we were sort of promised for this year, or motion support. Other but unlikely candidates are higher frame rates, something about their "compaction" methods, better shadowing or who knows. I'll stick to talking about the main 2 possibility's.

With a downloadable demo, it's risky. There are tons of talented hackers out there ready to rip apart their code just to see how it's done, I'm sure. Maybe they don't care though. Assuming they don't, what might we see? Well, I doubt that with all the new staff they acquired that they got a new, real artist. So we would likely see a rehash of the same old island demo we've seen before. What would be amazing of them is to release something that demonstrates the ease of converting polygon models into their atom models. Preferably being able to do a whole scene. Let the real, amateur artists showcase their techs abilities for them in YouTube videos or downloadable files to run on it. I doubt that would happen though, as much as it would be nice.

The more likely update I would expect is a video showing some motion. Motion at the least from scenery. But we could see some crude scripted animation from some lifeless dull character walking around on their unmoving island demo. Probably relying on the practiced line that they're just programmers, not animators. I'm being a bit negative I suppose, but while I think the company is legit, I just don't trust them much to show much of anything off. Watching/reading the interviews with their project head, I'm just left with the feeling that they're enjoying the backlash to much, almost like trolls themselves, purposely trying to instigate people into hating them. The "any sort of a attention is good attention" type of stuff. When they have the spotlight on them they're going to milk it in any way they can.

So to sum up my speculation:

Oculus Rift - Q4 2013, $400-$500, 1 step up in resolution from the dev build.
Unlimited Detail Engine - Crummy video in the next 2 months, showing either basic scenery animation or crude character animation.

Worth mentioning in this follow up is another piece of new hardware being developed. I haven't looked into it as extensively as the other projects, but it does seem interesting and worth mentioning. It's called LeapMotion.

I know. Sounds like a stupid name. I don't understand it either. Anyway, what this hardware is, is a replacement for things like a mouse, keyboard, and gamepad. It's a type of camera that tracks the details of your hands and fingers at very fast speeds and at very fine precision. Along side the Oculus Rift, this really makes you feel like that future that movies have always made it seem like we were heading for, is finally near.

There are a few videos demoing this on YouTube, but others don't really showcase much different. And the only gaming it's shown with is cheap trendy type stuff. Not real video games. So who knows how hard they are working on adapting this for gaming or anything outside of useless novelty stuff that doesn't do much beyond what you could do with a mouse.

Personally, I don't think this tech is to near ready. The fact that it needs to be below your monitor to track movement above it rather then the other way around (maybe it supports both, I haven't read about it though.) and its limited field of tracking make its use kind of limited. I don't think it needs to be some sort of gimmicky Kinect BS, tracking entire body movement, just a larger area then the couple feet in front of your monitor.

If this tech can evolve more and more as time goes by, it can show real promise though. It could move on to maybe 2-3 sensors allowing 360 degree full body tracking, maybe see some facial detail tracking, or who knows. Such things could really allow for some amazing new control interfacing for standard computer use, and go well beyond the capabilities of current motion detection game interfaces.

But thinking about this, if the drivers and software that go along with it are as good as could be hoped, controls could be amazing if you could use hand gestures, like sign language or some sort of spell casting. The range of such gestures is enormous, and could be used as shortcuts for a lot of basic computer actions or gaming controls.

I could theorize its capabilities all day long, but won't. This is defiantly another piece of tech to keep our eyes on though, and see what evolves with it.

News: Z-Net I Project Status Update

Friday, August 31, 2012

I've recently been working on ZNI some again. Sadly, there's still a severe lack of feedback on its more major bugs, so I'm still left in the situation were I won't work on anything new on the project until I've fixed the major issues. This is part why I lost interest in the project, and haven't done anything with it in a few months.

I slightly adjusted my stance on working on it, and begone working on it again only to cover some weak spots in it and zbattles design. Mostly related to make moderating the program easier/cleaner. And doing so within the bounds of retaining backwards compatibility with v0.5.3.1 while also not moving it to far away from the zbattle design.

The changes are almost all behind the scenes, so I won't go into anything. Few users should care outside of knowing the fact that I am still willing to work on the project. It's just lack of user feedback and other community aspects that are keeping me from doing so. And I very much want to add all the new features users want and bring it beyond a zbattle clone. I'm just holding firm to the belief that whats broken now needs to be fixed before adding anything new that might end up broken.

I'm hoping to release the next version sometime soon, even without all the bug fixes I used to want in it. But I don't have a real timetable yet. It will need to see some private beta testing first.

The only other news about Z-Net is already known by most that actively use the program or visit the website. But I guess I can talk about it here for the few that don't. The problem facing ZNI with a lack of mods, and abundance of users who disregard the rules finally reached it's boiling point, and regrettably I've felt forced to make the drastic step of restricting use of ZNI to only times at which a ZNI mod is connected. This helped coax 2 users to apply to be mods, but ZNI still needs several more to help ensure it both up at all and well moderated anywhere close to 24 hours a day. Right now I do what I can still to make sure its up during the hours of the evening (PST), but I can't always cover those hours myself.

So with that in mind, please do your part if you can and apply to help moderated and grow the health of the community and project.

UFC May Have Finally Jumped The Shark

Friday, August 24, 2012

I'm a MMA fan. I've thought about posting about it in the past, but ended up not doing so due to it being to much in contrast of the other posts I had going on. Now that I'm trying to expand the content on my blog it would seem to be a good time. And regrettably, this is what I have to post about.

It was announced in these past couple days that, for the first time ever, the UFC has completely canceled an event. One that was even scheduled to happen just 8 days later. "Why?" you may ask.

Well, a lot of things factor into it, but in the short of it, because it's Light Heavyweight Champion bitched out. What I mean is, while I don't think he was scared to fight the challenger put in front of him, he declined the fight based on his ego, money, etc. Sure his head trainer could be shouldering the blame instead of him due to the advice he gave to him, but in the end it's up to the fighter to take a fight or not. And he didn't.

A short while ago, Jon Jones himself was in the opposite position of a similar situation. Coming in on short notice to challenge the Champ. Back then he seemed to be the next big deal. A great up and coming role model for the sport. A hungry, competitive fighter that people could appreciate. One that cares more about putting on a good show or challenging himself, more then how much money he's getting, how it effects his endorsement deals, a legacy based on winning, or other such things.

That all changed once he got the gold belt. Fan's started seeing through his phony persona. And despite continuing to win with impressive performances, his stock in fans eye just didn't go up. Instead maybe down. He seemed to poorly fight it for awhile, but recently it seems he has just given up and is now starting to show himself for the person he truly is, one even worse then we thought was poorly hiding behind that mask.

I'm only going to speak from my perspective as a fan and how I view it effecting me. Other fighters, promoters, sponsors and other people effected by his actions have or can speak for themselves elsewhere. As a fan, I find his actions embarrassing. I'm a pure MMA fan. I've cared little to nothing for every other sport. MMA was something special, and devoid of all the bad aspects plaguing other sports. I've been proud to admit I'm an MMA fan, and tell people whats great about it and why they should watch. For all the pure fighters that show their heart in the cage, are hungry for competition no matter where they rank on the ladder. UFC has had its issues in the past year or two, of which I'll go more into later. But seeing a guy like this just brings to MMA what is one of the worst aspects of boxing, something that is why MMA outshines boxing in the way it does now.

I titled this post about UFC jumping the shark. And what I more fully mean is that in recent years the UFC has digressed into exactly what I hated about other sports. UFC and MMA in general used to have the most intelligent fans, which also is why I was proud to say I was one. Many UFC fans both quickly learn all the technical details that went into a fight to be able to enjoy it, and they saw past the regional BS mindset of "I like this guy the most because he from somewhere close to where I live!", and instead were fans of someone purely because that guy had skill, was a hard worker, a great heart as a fighter, or was because he was a entertainer.

Well, those days are gone. The sport has been heading in a direction that completely endorses such limited mindsets. I find it embarrassing to hear the chants of "USA", just as much as I find it disgusting to hear the cheers and boos in the way in which that happen in Brazil events. It's just sad to see a sport that was once so great, going this direction.

Maybe it isn't to late. There's a possibility of salvaging the dignity of the sport. I hope it happens. But as it looks now, the talent on fight cards has been stretched to thin, egos and money are starting to drive fighters, fan intelligence is at a all time low, and ticket and PPV prices are to high and seem to be going up. It's going to be hard to fix all of that.


Another Up-Coming Big Leap

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This is somewhat of a follow up to my last post on the Oculus Rift HMD/VR Headset. While that is a piece of hardware set to change the way we see/play games, what I'm going to talk about now is more about software.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn't like the look of games on PS1 and other consoles in that era. The best looking games were only games that just didn't look particularly bad. This was due to 3D being done using polygons which lacked the advancements done since then to make them less jagged, richer in color, and just plain have more of them to make things look less blocky. While back then I just didn't find many games particularly appealing, looking back at those games now, some look down right hideous.

But polygons were all we really had. If you don't know, polygons are, simply put, triangles or deformed rectangles. 3-4 points get specified, then a picture gets placed in between those points to create whatever is desired to be seen. Either a piece of terrain, maybe a piece of clothes or skin, etc. As game tech has evolved more and more polygons can be placed on a screen at a time, and this makes things look smoother and all around better like we see from games today.

Despite that, even in games today, if you look closely at a game you can see the polygons. While games may get better and better looking, polygons are always going to be limiting games from achieving that perfect realistic look the future of the game industry should be striving for. But it is the best of the worst possible ways to do 3D, so were stuck with it.

Things like voxels have existed for awhile. If you've played MineCraft, you've seen voxels. While it's a very good game, visually it looks like crap compared to other modern games. It doesn't look like that purely for its personal artistic uniqueness or anything. It looks like a N64 game because of the limits of voxels. It just takes more data being processed at a time to display voxels. The real world is made of atoms, so ideally to replicate that in a game you would want to do something comparable. Voxels would fit that. But as they are now, they will always be behind polygons in when it comes to pleasant graphics. I say "as they are now", because someone could rethink the technology and cause a great leap forward. And that just may have been done.

Enter a new small company called Euclideon. This group has caused a bit of controversy after releasing a couple YouTube videos about a year apart and remaining silent in between. They made enormous claims that if true would turn the graphics industry on its head, and with such claims the silence rightfully seems very shady to a lot of people. To this day they could be orchestrating a hoax. We honestly don't know until they reveal more or release playable demos. To me though, they seem legit, and I can't wait to see more.

Getting to the point, what they have claimed is to be able to render games in unlimited detail using atom based graphics. To break it down more, while they claim it isn't voxels, the tech their claiming to use is at the least very similar or just an evolution of voxels that was needed. Its called Point Cloud data. They render worlds by the atom, each far smaller then seen in MineCraft, with more density and at very usable speeds. If they can truly do this, worlds will look amazing. Graphics artists will no longer have their hands tied behind their back. Simply, 3D games will look like we always wanted them to. If the same tech can be applied to character models, our games would look like those amazing cut scenes videos and trailers for games that for me, always lead to a huge let down once I get into the game and see it looks little to nothing like that quality.

Without further ado, watch this video for yourself.

For the disbelievers the video below is more interesting, but much longer. It's a interview with the project head, and in it you get to see their demo played in real time as best as it can be proved at this point. At the very least, when you watch this video you should begin to think "This is a AWFUL lot of work for a hoax if it is one!", which to me means its chance of being one is very low. The only other reason to go to this extent is for scamming money out of investors, of which they claim they don't need any. If their privately taking behind the scenes funding, we will never know. Still, I'm choosing to believe in it for now.

If true, what this will mean is that $500 graphics card you have right now is almost worthless as it would be little to no different then a $50 one. This Point Cloud rendering is all done on the CPU, not the GPU, or so they claim. Now in the future, GFX cards could very well be redesigned to take some of the load and increase performance, but we wouldn't see that right away. If developing a game for this is just as easy as it is with polygons, then this should get adopted quickly and NVIDIA and ATI should be struggling to adapt for a little while.

That's the only bad with this, but even then things could go differently. There could be a marriage between the 2 techs, and for example, polygons could still be used for character models. For all I know, doing such a thing could cause character models polygon counts to be safely increased much higher. Things like lighting, shadows, etc, could all still be handled by current GFX hardware.

Also of note. This is a graphics engine, similar to the Unreal engine series most of us know about. This means that the possibility of seeing this on consoles is fairly good. If we do, there should really be little difference in the 3 major consoles if their games are being created using such an engine. People will further realize that things like innovation and features matter more. And thankfully, this favors my favorite brand as Nintendo is the only one that really tries to innovate.

Below is a video from another site showcasing some of whats been done since then. At first when looking at the preview still, it seems like a pic of the real world. It is however a real time rendered 3D environment. It's fairly obvious once the video starts playing, even it you didn't see into the emptiness of infinity at some points. But its still massively better then the environments being rendered right now with polygons! But with such a small environment size, it's still not likely the definitive proof that hopeful skeptics would like to see.

Read the full story here 

What we need to see next, besides them obviously just finishing their tech and putting it into the hands of game devs, is a downloadable demo or acknowledgement from undeniably credible names in the gaming industry. The latter being maybe similar to John Carmack lending his name and face along side of the Oculus Rift. I'd like to see this just to get past all the negativity surrounding this project. Its such a huge step for gaming that it just needs to have all the most legitimate claims to it being fake squashed, so things could move forward with it getting the proper attention it deserves. With a demo, well, that would be even more significant as long as they didn't impose tons of limits on it. But it would also be dangerous for them as company. Once any code is out, they risk people reverse engineering their code. This could create competition to soon, and effect things negatively in other ways. 

Next we also need to see this rendering animation. Real time animation requires a significant amount of CPU power, and that requirement grows with the more data you have to keep rendering as the animations continues. Animation has been a huge concern to a lot of skeptics because of knowing that. Thus far the only animation shown by Euclideon is with a old very crude version of the engine, and that just says little for the engine at this state. Animation is most important for models, which as I said could possibly still be rendered with polygons, but scenery has is own animation as well, or at least it should.

Another concern about this is its memory footprint. Rendering worlds by the atom should require a LOT of data to do it properly. In the demo, this issue could seem to have been short cut by the reuse of a smaller list of objects. But when it comes to a full game level or seamless world, such reuse of a limited number of objects and terrain isn't going to cut it.

This company could have something very special, but so far has given its fans little, and critics plenty. It's now been over a year since their last official update. Not only is it about time for a new update, but starting from that update, the secrecy and shadiness needs to end. Some may see it as they don't owe us anything. I beg to differ some, and here's why. Were all sitting on the edge of a major breakthrough in gaming graphics, and as I mentioned this is all done in software. Think about all the people that may drop hundreds or thousands of dollars on new GFX hardware, just to find out that this is going to hit and make that hardware no more useful then say an old and otherwise outdated card. Personally, I'm not investing in a new card until I know more about this engine, and its been this way since I first heard about it. So this leaves me completely hanging until I hear a real time frame.

Whatever happens, if this proves real and to lives up to Euclideon's claims, were all in for a real treat. Both this and the Oculous Rift could be in full swing in the next couple years, and while one of them is a massive change to the way we see/play games, both together is simply mind boggling.

My hopes are high. I cant wait to see how things develop, or to get my hands on both projects.

The Next Big Leap For Gaming

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

It's been a while since I've posted. I got to fixated on this being a portal for my Z-Net I project and lost sight of it being more of a generalized content blog. Now I'm going to take another step towards that goal and talk about a new piece of hardware being developed that I think most of you would find interesting.

A lot of us probably grew up thinking the future of gaming was going to be about immerse 3D experiences, either through a Holodeck like seen in Star Trek or through a Virtual Reality headset (HMD) like seen in countless movies and T.V. shows. More so the latter as growing up in the 80's - 90's with all this teasing shown, I expected that to be anytime now. When the Virtual Boy was released, well, it was disappointing. But it was still at least a step forward. It still made me feel like the next step was right around the corner. Sadly, I had to wait many years for the VR blip to appear on my radar. And that was the Nintendo On. If you don't remember this piece of gaming controversy history, it was a well put together demo/teaser video about the next Nintendo console after the GameCube. The console was featured to finally be the first true attempt at a real HMD that we all were waiting for. The way this video was released made it seem shady, and while my expectations weren't up, my hopes defiantly were. It obviously proved fake as the next console turned out to be the Wii and was nothing like it.

Since then the HMD tech world has been silent with nothing new and significant coming forward. For years now there has been HMD's, but most are priced into the obscene and no where near affordable to the average gamer. And of course the cheaper and closer they are to being affordable, the worse they are. And sadly, it seemed like no one was even trying to bring this tech to us.

The major limitation preventing progress in this market was the display units themselves. Developing a couple small screens to sit in front of your eyes with a resolution you could find remotely enjoyable with anything close to modern games, was hard. And at a affordable cost was essentially impossible. While that was the single biggest issue preventing any development at all, there was another. To get a true immersive experience the head movement of the character in game needed to be synced with your own. Since the Wii, the tech needed for this existed in the form of motion sensors. Such sensors for a headset need to have extremely low latency in order to properly fool the brain enough for you to have a quality experience. If your not convinced at the need for such motion sensors, I suggest you look into an experiment by a guy named Johnny Chung Lee. When the Wii first came out he started using the WiiMote in other ways, one of which reversed the positions of the remote and the led sensor bar to a degree. You make a set of sensor bar glasses or just put the normal one on your forehead and put the remote on top of your monitor, load his program, and start moving your head around. The 3D effect is quiet cool even though its so fixed to a screen. If you have a WiiMote, a bluetooth adapter and a little time I suggest you try it out. Or at least check out this video.

Anyway, the tech for such VR devices evolved little over the years. And despite the recent advances with smart phone displays, no one has truly married the screen tech with HMD's, until now. Yes, now there is a a new HMD in development! And whats better it is being made with the backing of some of the biggest names in "First Person" game development. This one has the cred to succeed! It's field of view is good, it's latency is low, and its resolution is currently around 720p for the development model, with 1080p expected for the consumer version. All with a final price in the consumer range. The dev models currently cost around $275-$300, and hopefully the consumer versions will as well. I think that's the perfect price, as anything more would just be to much for a display, and would just limit it to a smaller pool of the gamer population.

This HMD is called Oculus Rift. And right now it in a phase putting kickstarter to use. As you will see, the demand for such tech is huge. It's currently sitting at almost 6 times the funds of its original goal. Now I urge you to understand what your getting if you were to put forward the $275-$300 for one of these units right now. These are dev units, not consumer models. If you were to buy one, you would effectively be buying one for a single game (Doom 3 BFG). And the dev models will likely have less capabilities then the consumer ones, like less resolution, no sound, no wireless, etc. While I'm certainly eager to get my hands on one, even if I had the money to idly throw at getting one, I most likely wouldn't and instead save it for the better/consumer model.

Oculus Rift KickStarter

Also you can watch a keynote with the devs backing this here. It's an hour long, but it helps convey the legitimacy on this project, and helps build confidence that it will come to completion.

Anything can happen. But I'm excited to finally see this step being taken for gaming. Since the step away from the 16-bit era, I personally have felt that 3D has mostly been crap. It was ugly on the PS1 which is a huge part of why I never bought it. It was done well enough on a few N64 Classics, but poorly on many others. Since those eras the marriage between graphics and gameplay has gone askew, with to much of a focus on graphics that just don't deliver anything to me. With consoles since then, I've just been buying Nintendo consoles for continuing to play my favorite franchises that always deliver on gameplay, and staying away from the over-rated graphics focused ones that just output generic FPS after generic FPS.

With this new leap coming, hopefully I can start enjoying modern games again, as the 3D should now be living up to its capabilities more. This still isn't everything to make a good all around enjoyable 3D experience, but there are other advancements being taken out there that I will post about later.

I hope you enjoy the excitement as much as I am!

Domain Name Issues Over For Now

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I don't know what happened still, so it may happen again, but the issues with the url for Z-Net this blog and my the z-net email addresses are now resolved again.

News: Domain Issues

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Today the domain I registered disappeared. I have no idea why, and I'm currently waiting on CS to get back to me. I've restored the blogs old domain name, and for now you can still access the Z-Net website through this url.

News: My Break

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It seems I finally got around to letting myself take that break I've been really needing to, as evident by my lack of activity the past 2 weeks.

I said I needed to take a break, then went right back to work on ZNI, fixing bugs and trying to make some improvements. I should have released it sooner, but a few days ago I released a bugfix test version of Z-Net I on one of the bug report threads. As soon as I hear back with positive results on that, I'll likely release at least it. But there are a few other bugs I need to work on as well.

During my break the past couple weeks, I've been filling the time playing a couple SNES game on bsnes to give that emu a full try. I've been raiding on WoW just as I have been (4/8 Heroic!). And I've been trying to get back into playing Magic the Gathering again (away 4 years, and so much has changed even in the Eternal formats I play in).

With SNES, I've been mostly trying to get a Megaopolis in Sim City, something of which I never achieved when I was younger. Figure nowadays with the internet and guides being so easy to find, maybe I could do it now. But the guides suck really because they're incomplete and/or inconsistent. And most of the info I already know. I hate constantly restarting a map over, but the best I got recently was around 430k/500k.

With WoW, I have 2 raid groups. The main one with my Rogue, and the alt raid with my Druid tank. My rogues raid was stuck trying hagara for weeks. We had a choice between trying zon'ozz or hagara next. I felt zon'ozz would be easier, and the majority of the rest thought hagara would be. So we worked on her. Weeks and weeks later, after little progress on hagara we try zon'ozz for a change of pace. 3-4 attempts later, we kill him. I was right. It was a relatively easy fight for our group. Our alt group was stalling at 6/8 on normal for several weeks. We have to pug a few to many spots to often. But we did start getting the last 2 done as well the past few weeks. For heroics, all we've done is try ultra a few times, but that didn't go to well. That group only goes 1 day a week though, so we don't want to try to long on heroic bosses.

The Eternal format scene in Las Vegas died a few years ago. I only play that, as in my view playing the more common standard is more expensive, and a waste of all the cards I've collected since '93. Sadly, as far as I can tell, it's still dead. I'm only getting back into it because a friend reopened up a shop a few months ago, and in any variation of the game, I miss playing it. Hopefully I will still get to play plenty of Legacy casually though. I'd preffer tourneys, which I may see one soon, but casual Legacy is better then nothing I guess. Though I can't really expect the best competition with the best decks which is a bummer. Maybe in time something will work out. =/

For now I'm trying to get into various forms of PC based MTG. Sadly though the best program for it is the official MTGO with its unattractive pricing plan, and by some annoying miracle, no emu server has even been attempted for it yet, let alone made. There are other homebrew programs available, but they have a very clunky feel for a PC program due to lacking rules enforcement and automation like that of a game client like MTGO. And they have a bit of a learning curve as well. They seem best used/learned with friends, of which I no longer have any in which I keep in contact with if any would have the desire to try using such a program. Currently, OCTGN and MagicWorkStation seem like the best. I played OCTGN for a few games. It seems alright if I had a friend to play with. I played against someone random who described himself as the Legacy guy, and he played something random compared to my decks that are/were at worst "Rogue". So without finding a friend to play with, I won't be able to expect much from those. If anyone out there is into Legacy MTG and wants to try using one of these programs with me, let me know. Hopefully I will at least be able to setup some contacts with some real life people from my friends store, as I won't be going down there every week.

For Z-Net I Followers

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I figure I should probably state this more clearly for all the people coming to this blog for Z-Net I related info. This is no longer the projects home. That was officially made to be when I released that website. Any new info on the project will be released there. This blog will go back to as it was before I begone being active on getting ZNI ready for a release, in that this blog is my personal blog. Meaning its about my rants and feelings about whatever, and about all my projects, Z-Net related or not.

If you're just coming here for Z-Net related info, then I suggest you may want to change your book mark to, the news page, or the forums. With that said, you don't have to. If you find other things interesting here, by all means check on this blog too. I just felt I should make that clear to people.

News: Z-Net I's Future

Thursday, May 24, 2012

After a few more days to think about it I've come to a decision. ZNI's user base is failing to live up to both what I hoped it could at this point and what the poll results made it seem it would be. I'm really believing now that the poll was defiantly cheated, and I have wasted my time on another project only a handful of people care about. What the past week and a half has shown me is, even that handful of people don't really care. Forum activity is pathetic. I caved in and added 3 more mods, suddenly none of which seem to be very active anymore. One already stated he won't be able to do much and has been removed. I can't take a single day off without people running wild without moderation. I've had to invest FAR more time into this project then I ever wanted to when I started it, and I'm continuing to have to invest FAR more time into it to maintain it then I ever wanted. I don't see the immediate future getting any better for me. There's just a serious imbalance with the project in that any good coming out of the project is far outweighed by the bad for me.

I'll officially declare now that Z-Net I will not see any new additions as its failing to live up anywhere close to that minimum user base I wanted for it to receive any. Honestly, while I know of 1-2 bugs, I won't be even working on them at all now. I don't even think I'll be moderating anymore, as if the users don't care then why should I?

I'll check in on the project for time to time. Things may change, and I just need to give it time. Time is all I can give anymore. Hopefully soon I'll also be able to play some on it, and finally get fun in some form out of it.

In the meantime without the project, hopefully I'll put some more time into D3 as I've fallen far behind everyone I know. A friends store has reopened, so maybe I'll pickup Magic the Gathering again 1-2 days a week there. Maybe I'll fiddle with some project I don't plan to release again. Like Z-Band. Maybe I'll finally get around to leveling my DK on WoW to 85. Maybe I'll try out my plan for some new websites/blogs. I have options, and none of which I've been seriously able to try while having to be so involved with ZNI.

For now, I encourage users who want to see the project do well, to try. If this thing hits 30 users at some point, then I'll resume work on it. Even that number is a bit low, but is a minimum to start with. By try, I mean tell others about the project. Forums, friends, websites, whatever. Participate in the forum community. Log in and play as often as you can. If you do the last two things, put your name in the hat to be added as a Jr Mod. This project shouldn't be maintained by a 1 man army, it should be maintained by a community. That's you.

News: Z-Net I's First Weekend Being Public, My Impressions

Monday, May 21, 2012

I chose to release ZNI as a true public beta earlier Friday to give it an ample opportunity to take advantage of the weekend, which has seemed to be zbattles prime time in the past. I've hoped that by the end of the weekend, ZNI's peak user count would have doubled, and previously dead times of day would  have started to see life. While hoping for that, I expected a ton of new users, and planned to see the 2-3 mods the project has stretch their legs and take some of the load off my shoulders. And I hoped to see the community pick up even more then it already had on the forums and IRC chat channel.

I'm sad to say that as this weekend reaches it's completion, I'm extremely disappointed. Rather then all of the aspects I've mentioned growing, they shrunk, or at best stayed exactly the same.

While new users might have seemed to pick up, past users seem to have maybe decreased, netting what I'm certain is at the most maintaining the max population, which is disappointing itself.

Everything else I've mentioned went down

One of my established mods has been MIA for various reasons, the other being on a little, and the new one I finally decided to add based on his frequent activity and helpfulness is no where to be seen as well. So I've been left most of the weekend as the sole mod trying to keep users informed of and following the rules. In the end I had more to shoulder rather than less. Except for Sunday. Things were so dead most of the day, I didn't have to do much.

And both the forum activity and IRC channel activity have just utterly died completely, with mainly just me posting anything or hanging out in the channel.

This is basically why I didn't want to get to invested in this project. I poor tons of my time over the last month into debugging and fixing the program, creating and fine tuning a new website, being as active as possible when moderating the users, finally coming around to the idea that this thing might just do well, start letting myself get my hopes up, and everything dies.

I think I need to take time off from this project soon. It's only the first weekend being truly public, and things could very well still pick up. I'm certainly not ending the project or anything. Outside of proper moderation, this project can sustain itself. But I just can't see myself being active while I wait for things to pick up. It will sap whatever enthusiasm I have left for the project to do so. So I'll be wrestling with that idea for now, and we will see what comes of it.

For now, the program is stable, the website is functional and mostly done, the forums should be sufficient for user needs. I can't shelve moderator duties, so I'll just do my best to handle those while still stepping back some if I indeed need to do so.

News: Z-Net I Open Beta & New Website

Friday, May 18, 2012

Z-Net I has been out for almost 2 weeks now as a forum member only beta. There doesn't seem to be many bugs left so I feel it's time now to try and get this project really going without restrictions. I'm now releasing Z-Net I as a open beta, meaning you can download it here or anywhere. It's no longer restricted to just members of the Z-Net forum. Also I'll completely support all normal sharing of this projects existence in regards to news submissions to websites that would genuinely be interested in the project. Before I just supported it being posted about to a few community forums in an attempt to draw interest from former zbattle users, and to have just a large enough pool of users to get this thing more properly tested. But now I'm hoping completely new users find the program as well.

This stage of the beta is little more then a real release, just with a "Beta" label so people know to expect bugs. But I feel this build "should" be stable and able to last awhile on its own before another update is needed.

Additionally, today I'm opening up the new dedicated Z-Net site. The project will still have a page here, but this new site will be the projects main home. The site is mostly done except for the about, faq and rules pages, of which I will get to when I can. For now this rules post should do, the introduction on the main page should be enough, and the faq will just be added to as needed.

Lets try to get this thing packed with players now!

Z-Net Homepage

News: Domain Name Changes

Saturday, May 12, 2012

As you will hopefully notice, there are some domain name changes going on. I've registered as something short and simple to use for both my blog and the forums. And something I can just point elsewhere if I ever need to move either. As you can tell my blog is now a sub-domain of the z-net url. The root url will hopefully someday be used for the Z-Net projects themselves. But not at this time outside of just the forums.

Since I'm posting some news, and it's been a few days since I've posted about the status of Z-Net I, I'll piggy back whatever info I can on this post.

There's not really much to talk about. The bans I did were lifted. I've released 2 updates on the forum for Z-Net I since it launched. It seems pretty stable for now. At least as far as I can tell. We still have far to few English speaking users to really get some clear feedback. The population isn't much right now, but in contrast to my past 2 Z-Net's, people are actually willing to stick around and wait if they can't find someone to play with right away. So in that sense the population is doing good I guess. But hopefully only due to the forum only release, there hasn't been a particularly high peak of users yet. But its only been 5 days, so I'm not expecting much for that reason either. My release schedule and plans are still not set in stone. I'm still just winging it. But my current plan is to roll in a code addition that's bigger then I'd really want to do at this point, but need to. I'd like to get that finished and get it privately tested for a couple days, then rolled out to the forum members within this week. And hopefully go on with a real public beta next week sometime (8-15 days from this posts date). That beta will be freely available on my blog, and worthy of submitting news to any site that would care about it. And one I'd openly condone distributing outside of my blog/forum. A version a community could hopefully start being built on.


Bad timing since I'm still waiting for all the DNS stuff to clear, but the forum server is experiencing some issues right now. Please be patient.

News: A Legend is Born (World of Warcraft)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last night after a week of drama, a couple long grueling weeks of trying to find a raid group, and several month's of work, my guild "KOTH" and I finally got our first Legendary item done. The Legendary daggers "Golad, Twilight of Aspects" and "Tiriosh, Nightmare of Ages" for my Rogue. It's amazing for me as seeing all I had to go through, and the extraordinary amount of luck that had to come my way in order to get this all done.

I started my quest for these daggers in the fall of last year, when they were announced. I wasn't even playing WoW then, and didn't even really plan to. Part of me wished I was purely for those daggers and the fact that probably the thing I miss the most from EverQuest was long significant quests for great weapons called Epic's (or other items for that matter). WoW didn't have that most of the time, and even when it did, my main class was always excluded. I could poke holes in the difference of EQ Epics and WoW Legendarys, mostly stating how I liked the Epic Quests more. But this Legendary is close enough!

I tried a emu server for a month just to see if I was interested in played WoW again at all. It killed some time, but it was boring and the horrible maintenance of the server got so bad that after a ridiculous 2 week rollback and login queue getting added, making things so much worse on top of the server stability it failed to fix, a friend was able to talk me back into played the real WoW again. A month later I rejoined my old guild and hoped to start raiding with them again, and start working on my Legendary. I quickly got the 1st stage daggers. After waiting over 1 month after the Dragon Soul raid instance was released, our raid finally went back, only to lead me to find at the last minute that instead of me being able to work on my Legendary 100% with them, they let one of the members log his alt Rogue reducing my chances to 50%. Then only after the first cluster dropped, did they let me know my chances were 0% as they just gave it to that all without discussing it with me one bit. Obviously I was pissed at my main being passed over for an alt, and about how the whole thing was handled on their part. They wasted over 1 month of my time by not informing me of their plan, and my raid lockout for that week. I quickly disbanded from the guild minutes after that. They did a poor job of handling discussing things with me from there. A couple days later, only due to my desire to remain guilded with people I liked that weren't part of that raid team, I rejoined and begone my personal quest to find myself a new raid team from outside that guild. As a Rogue period, especially one seeking his Legendary, this was a horrible time to be looking for a raid, and odds were dismal. Yet, I had no choice and hoped to rely on my skill and gear to get a raid to take a chance on me. After a long grueling week of countless hours spent looking for a raid, posting on forums, talking in whispers with people, etc. I finally found a raid. With KOTH. I raided with them once, and they were perfect for me. They were all around better then my old raid groups, weren't a bunch of annoying tools in vent like I was afraid of finding, wanted to progress but weren't hardcore, etc. They even seemed to appreciate me as if I were a lucky find due to my raiding experience and ability to contribute quality DPS. Sadly, after just one week, my permanent spot in the raid group was no more and I was left back to finding another raid again. 1 more long grueling week later, KOTH wanted me back. And since then I have truly been a permanent part of the raid team. Shortly before achieving the 2nd stage set of my daggers, I joined the guild on my Rogue as well.

From there the drama and ordeals were mostly gone, and it was just a grind for many weeks for us to finally get the dagger set completed last night. At this point, I'm now the 20th ranked character on the server, 4th among Rogues on my faction, #1 in my guild. Our guild is tied for 10th on the server with 3 Heroic bosses down. Soon we hope to get 1-2 more. These Legendary daggers should more firmly cement me at the top of the DPS meters on more fights, and help greatly when progressing through more content.

Oh, and OMG! I have WINGS!!!

News: Bans Issued Already

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

While I was redundantly clear on one thing, I should have been more clear on another. This beta is ONLY for members of the official Z-Net forum, which was made clear. And it is only for such members that can clearly communicate issues that they find. Meaning at the least, people who speak clear English. I completely expected a few non-English speakers to find the program, and had no intention of denying them the ability to use it. But by far the combination of one such community releasing my programs file outside of my forum, and posting about the project to the result of drawing in a large amount of such users, is to much to the point of were I've had to take drastic action.

I've banned a large range of users from using Z-Net I as a result. I'm sorry to those effected by this, as I completely expected and was willing to accommodate some portion of the user base who just wanted to play. But 1 guy has ruined things for the rest of you. And has also proven right claims from many users about such community's, which is sad. For the future, I don't know what my plans will be for such players. Maybe I need to talk to a community representative first before deciding.

At the very least, I would need to be more properly equipped to manage such users, beta or not, before I'd consider removing the bans.

News: Z-Net I Public Beta

Monday, May 07, 2012

The day is finally here! The birthday for Z-Net I (and myself).

This isn't a full release as I still expect there to be issues, and maybe even some I know about already. I promised to release this thing within a couple weeks of the poll hitting 50, and luckily for me its reached a point were it seems I can keep my word! The issues are mostly all cosmetic stuff at this point. The beta testers have been scraping the bottom of the barrel lately finding obscure and odd bugs, which is a decent sign that a more public release is warranted. We are going to just need more hands on this thing to refine it more from here. Though still, I don't really want to go full force at a full population for this thing just yet. So in a effort to buffer some of the users, I'm opting for a forum member only download of the program. The idea is that if your signed up for the forum, you have no reason not to post about issues outside of pure laziness.

I'm uncertain what my personal plans are on the project from here. I've been grinding away at it the past couple weeks to get it ready, and it's taking a toll on me. So I may not be working on it as much as I have been. But for now, I do still plan to work on it at least.

I do have to clearly state though, that I do NOT plan to add new features at this time. I am only concerned with getting it working correctly as is. Please keep this in mind when posting about issues.

Once completely refined and released fully, I still won't declare any intention to start adding new features. As I've stated in the past, my continued advancement of the project is directly related to its popularity and my general interest. While I certainly wouldn't let a project go for 10 years with a population like zbattle had, without a single advancement, I too would have periods of time were I'm busy or not interested in working on it. And if their were only a handful of users using it, effort spent on advancing the project would just be a waste. That said, my personal hope IS for the project to get to the point were I can start advancing it. And if I'm bored, and personally feel an advancement could directly increase it's population, I may do it anyway.

That all said, on to the reason you're here! Follow this forum link, sign up, download and have fun!

Z-Net I Public Beta Release Thread

News: Just Another Progress Update

Thursday, May 03, 2012

While I'm still not ready to declare a release date yet, finding bugs in Z-Net I is starting to wined down. Some of the testing feedback seems to indicate that it's working pretty stable, and mostly just the file transfer feature is likely were most of any remain bugs will be found. I'm not certain how I'm going to want to handle the release yet. I'm considering a silent public beta, where I would just release the program link in the #Z-Net channel or forums for a couple days to help iron out any new bugs that are found with a smaller user base before a true public release. But judging by the lack of beta applications, there still may not be enough interest in this project for that plan to do any good.

But since a release is starting to look like it's in sight now, I should start some planning ahead. I don't know for certain how zbattle did it, but as far as I know just veeborg moderated it. For ZNI however, I want some moderators other then myself as I can't be around all day long. I'm still drawing up a moderator FAQ, and generally thinking of what all is going to be involved. But I know enough now to know I should start a search for moderators as soon as I can. What would be required of a moderator is first, a GOOD IRC client, preferably mIRC as it's scripting language offers access to tools that could make things much easier. I have little experience with IRC clients other then mIRC so I don't know of any offhand, but if another supports being able to use the minimum results I need from a mods client, then that could be fine as well.

If you would care to be a mod, you can post as such on the forum. I have no post setup for it yet, so just post a new one for now.

News: The End of the Poll

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The poll has reached the end date I chose for it. It reached it's minimum goal, but didn't go much past it. At the end of the month the final tally is 65. I swear it was at 70 the other day. I can only guess that it really did get cheated some.

Anyway, the final result changes nothing really. I still plan to release the program. And still plan to just wait and see before I decide on if I want to progress the project forward with improvements to the UI and features. I've extended the poll date now, just to keep it around to collect information. I will remove it from the main page soon though.

Progress is still going forward with testing. I'm fixing several issues a day with it. Honestly, far more then I would have expected would be present in it. Most of the testing seems to be focused on the file transfer feature right now. I think it mostly works, just there are some crashes and some issues that can be produced with it.

Maybe since today's a milestone for the projects development, I should at least give anyone following the progress something for news. So I guess I'll officially declare the projects new name.

Z-Net I

To me that represents it the best. The "I" can take many meanings, but gives the feel that it's somehow both a successor and a completely new project then the 2 mIRC scripts.

The "I" can be viewed as meaning "Independent", "Improved", "Imitation", or anything else that could reflect the project. And of course it also serves as the roman numeral of one, to signify that it is a new breed and won't have everything that the 2.0 mIRC script had, and if anything it more closely resembles the 1.0 mIRC script.

I'll also declare that this project will use a new channel. The old one will still be used primarily as a chatting channel in addition to being the default channel for the old mIRC scripts. Since there should be little reason people would want to use those, it will likely mostly just be a chat channel. Keep in mind though, that while its getting its own new channel, that will change little for the users. There will be no ability to see chat or talk in the channel itself. While I designed the new programs to be able to cleanly be used by users not on the new client, this is still cleaner. And the user count will actually reflect about how many users are using the program and not just idling around in mIRC or something.

News: Bugs Are Icky!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bugs, bugs, and more bugs. I must have fixed 8 or 9 today! Insane...

Of note, things I've done today are, having newly added game lines placed on the bottom of the list instead of the top, added the preselect a game ability I mentioned before, more properly designed the installer and program to be ready to work on systems that have UAC like vista/win7, and added a feature to the installer itself. The feature is completely optional during the install process, but lets the user import the settings from zbattle by locating the ini for it. I figured this feature would help former zbattle users get setup easier. Its not a huge feature, but I still hope/expect it will be appreciated none the less. =)

My list of bugs to fix keeps shrinking, if there's even anything left on it atm. But it keeps growing every day too. So still no idea when this project will be ready. I don't think all the bugs fixes I've done the past few days have been thoroughly tested yet either. The testers pool still has me as the major contributor sadly. Obviously when I fix something I'll see it as working, else I'd keep trying to fix it. So the small tester pool doesn't keep up with my needs on that part. Still, recently Sferics became available to do some testing, and a applicant was finally added. So just a couple more and maybe I can take some of my load off!

News: Testing is Still Moving Forward!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yep. I'm still knocking off bugs as they're found. Today I got several bugs, and yesterday I got a few fixed as well. ChikaChon seems to be hitting his groove as far as doing a great job at finding the more odd bugs, and its really helping. He's found several crash inducing bugs the past couple days for me to fix. Those are the most important.

The only bugs worth mentioning though were a game room list updating bug that updated the wrong lines in the list window, and a all the work that went in tonight with testing the download feature with ChikaChon and Sferics, and the resulting fixes. List management bugs are very important to find and get fixed, as that's the epicenter of the program and one wrong thing can royally screw things up for everyone connected. And yes, I'm happy to say the download feature has been tested. It worked when I first developed it back in 2010, but required numerous fixes to get working correctly now. It still may have it's issues, but at least tonight I saw it correctly send a file from me to Sferics. From what I remember, and what everyone else seems to say, the download feature in zbattle had issues. So I hope I can get this one to surpass it. At the very least it does now, in that this supports resuming a download, something of which I remember zbattle not doing.

I still have a few things on my plate to fix though. The general memory seems to be that zbattle allowed a host to choose a game prior to a client joining, and it would automatically initiate a scan for a match on the clients computer when he joined. This pre-selection option is something I never knew about if it existed, so it would be something I still need to add. Further confirmation from other former zbattle users on this feature would be helpful in the comments.


I have recently realized I have incorrectly posted the time frame I required of beta testers, having got the am and pm mixed up. 6PM-12AM PST was what I meant to post. To put it another way, evenings. If you considered applying, saw this typo and thus abandoned the idea from there, please consider it again.

Beta Tester Application Thread

News: How The New Z-Net is Going

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I haven't posted for a few days for the exact reason I mentioned in the last news post. To try and get some attention over on the forums. There have been a couple sign-ups and even one beta app, but as I suspected, right now just probably isn't the time for community building. Or at least the time to expect it to happen. Knowing that, still some more beta testers would be nice to help make sure this project is moving forward at a good pace.

While not moving forward as fast as I or potential users could hope for, it at least has still been moving forward. As I posted about here, I have fixed a few bugs thanks to the help of ChikaChon. Today I fixed a couple more. One involving a crash when a CRC scan is preformed on a empty directory, something I knew about but have been forgetting about. And one with the program not properly handling being disconnected by outside means, like though ISP outage, or a cable being pulled. And I just fixed a 3rd issue by changing the protocol some.

As of now, I only have 1 known issue still to fix, and maybe a 2nd if it wasn't fixed by some of my changes a couple days ago. The first isn't so much of a bug, as it is a hole. Things not expected by the program, that could/should be. The other is just an issue that was cropping up randomly, and had some similarity's to another issue I fixed before I could dig deeper into its cause.

Hopefully I'll get started on the 1 known remaining issue tomorrow. Then personally get back more onto testing it myself. If all goes well from there, the final step will be removing some beta only things, making some final decisions like on the name, using a new channel or not, minor change in the process I've been neglecting to consider, etc.

News: Progress, Testing, Forums, etc

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I've been surprised to find that there's not as many bugs as I remembered finding. I could only come up with a couple, that mostly just require further testing with actual beta testers. So hopefully the beta test phase won't be all that long. But I do still need some testers to help with it. Check this page out on the forum if you want to help.

Beta Tester Application Thread

Tonight I've left the client running for a couple hours as a test. And its held up well under this low level test at least. I'll even leave it running for a while longer. If you drop by the #Z-Net chat room, you will probably see it running under the name "DarkGouki". I fixed a couple things tonight with it as well. But not much. There's just to little left to do without real testing being done on it.

Sferics decided to post a welcome message on the forum to try and get some community stirring on both the forums and in the chat room. So check that out and say hello and chat awhile.

Welcome Thread

I forgot to mention it, but I switched hosts for the forums. I just got to sick of byethost and how much worse it has gotten. This new one seems better, at least for now. I just hope it will remain like that. At least now I'm more confident that it could actually sustain a community posting on it! It's probably premature to think of such things, when the program isn't even released yet. But a forum for such a program is almost a requirement, if only at least for support. But there are always people like me who just like to socialize on them as well. So while it's still before the program is released, you might as well get signed up now and say hi.

In fact, I may just relax my blog posting for a few days and try to make things more active there. Be on the lookout there for any progress updates, feedback from testers, or whatever.

The Forums

News: It's Offical! The 3rd Z-Net is Going to be Released!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

After seeing the votes tick up more and more, with still over 1/3 of the total voting time left, I saw that the odds were that it was going to hit 50 with time to spare. And because of that, I decided to grab the projects source code once again and look more at what I have to do with it to comfortably release it "as is". While doing that, I cleaned up some of what I wanted to, and begone work on reorganizing things, adjusting the protocol, evaluating what my prior notes said were issues, etc.

And now, the poll has reached 50. So it seems I have officially begone work on getting this project ready for a release. While I would like to get this project in the hands of users asap, as I understand perfectly well that most of the users would be zbattle refugees in need of a new home, it's best that I don't rush it, and instead put as much polish into it as I can first. Knowing that, I still can't promise a release date though. I have one in mind, but would honestly hope to release it sooner than that.

Now, just because the project is now officially on the road to being released, it doesn't mean people should stop voting. People should continue to do so, at the very least to help indicate to others the amount of other people that would be using it too, once released. Also with a significant enough amount of additional votes, I can reassess what my continued amount of focus, effort, and direction would be for this and related projects. And of course, the voting options themselves. While it has little to do with how the project will be released in the coming days/weeks, in the future this info could be vital to the direction on this projects future or Z-Bands. Right now, about %60 don't really care so long as the program works well. There's not much I can do with that knowledge as far as tailoring the design to the users, so I can ignore that in regards to this. Most of the other options however differ only by a few votes, and its hard to conclude something with so little to go off of. If there did happen to be a sizable population of users using the program when I release it, I still wouldn't have much to go on for the future direction of the project. So keep the votes coming!

On to the projects status itself.

Major things I still have to do:

  • Decide on a name. Currently the names on the top of my list are Z-Net 3.0, ZNIII, ZN3, ZNI, Z-Net I, Z-Net 1.5SA (The last one is based on the fact that this project more closely resembles the first Z-Net which left off at v1.41, among other reasons. SA meaning "Stand-Alone". The "I" in the previous 2 serves dual meaning for "independent" as an alternative and more friendly term than "stand-alone", and also as a "one", starting over the numbering in a way, but differentiating it from the mIRC script.).
  • Create an installer. CHECK
  • Test it with another user.
  • Recruit some beta testers, and have them test it.
  • Empty out the 2 different "todo" lists I've been keeping on it.
  • Decide if I want to use the old #Z-Net channel for this, or create a new one.

That list may not be complete, and I might edit more into it as I think of it.

If anyone has name ideas, post them in the comments or on the forums.

Lastly, I'm already ready for some beta testing on this project. If you have the time and motivation to be a good beta tester, review, sign up and post on the following thread on the forum.

Beta Tester Application Thread