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

News: Finishing Up the Base Code for the Z-Band/phpBB3 Merger

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Today I finished up properly porting my Z-Band server code into a phpBB3 compatible setup. I got the game links on the leader board page, and selection boxes on the registration and score update pages being created dynamically after checking a game database list. So when I add support for a new game to Z-Band, rather then editing all the pages, I can just add the new games' info to that database.

After that I fixed a hole in my score update code that would allow the same user to effectively confirm his own score update, and potentially pad his score total like crazy. The page now only accepts the confirmation from the other player.

There's little left to do with the server code for now. Sure I could flesh out the leader board page some more, write real tournament handling code, maybe optimize a few database storage things, display records in a users profile or posts, or something else. But I'm happy with it as it is, for now.

I'm not certain what I want to work on next. Perhaps I'll take a break in preparation for the poll hitting 50 and working on polishing the clone client up. At the very least I should now get a jumpstart on considering aspects of the program for when I would release it. Like a decision on a name. Any protocol changes or optimizations I might want. What channel it will use (#Z-Net, or something new). And a couple other things.

For now, here are 2 new links to the Z-Band server pages along with the 2 I've released before. Keep in mind though, that you can't use or even view the top 2 pages without a account on the forum. Also you can't really use them without a 2nd person. For a game registration to be ok'ed by the server, both players involved need to fill out the form on the Registration page exactly the same except obviously supplying the other players name as opponent. so tinkering around solo won't really show you that much. At this time, there's no way to confirm that a match is registered after the fact, other then for the second player who signed up seeing the "Match Registered 2/2" message right after signing up. At this time, matches stay permanently registered until unregistered or I manually delete them. The score update page also requires submissions from both players to clear with the server. It only increases the score 1 point at a time, so it isn't well setup for users to manually update like this. As of writing this, I'm realizing this is more clunky to use manually then I thought. But that's fine to me I guess, for now. I honestly didn't intend for this to be used like that, and am only making it so just to have something public to show for this project. It certainly won't be a priority, but I may work on tuning it up for manual use if I'm bored and people wanted to use it.

Z-Band Registration
Z-Band Score Update
Z-Band LeaderBoard
Z-Band UserLog

News: Still Messing With Z-Band Server Code

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I didn't post yesterday as there wasn't much to post about. Yesterday and today I worked on the Z-Band server code for registration and score updating. Mostly finalizing any account check stuff, getting the score database for a user generated the first time they get a score in a game, and cleaning up the code and the way all the processes go. As well as covering a few security holes.

As is, it would almost be ready to be made public if I wanted. But there's still a couple minor issues I have to fix before I'd consider making it available for people to mess with.

Soon I should start considering what I would want to do about what info is stored in the database, and optimizing how its stored if need be. Currently of the 3 games I have listed as supported, 4 if you count SMK race and battle modes separately, the only things that are kept track of are wins/losses. I did think to make space in the database for each game/mode to keep track of winning and losing streaks, but haven't yet coded anything to actually process and store that info. There's probably other things users might like to keep track of too. For winning/losing streaks, after thinking about it more, it would probably be best to divide that up into 2. Best streak, and current streak. Other then streaks, I'm open to suggestions. I think I've thought of things before but didn't write them down. I think of ideas for these programs all the time, and often do write them down, but when I don't, they tend to be lost completely.

As of this news post, there's about 12 days left on the poll. After things picked up a few days ago, they seem to have slowed down again. So either it was a weekend thing mixed with my previously posted theory, or someone was cheating it. But anyway, it's still looking borderline possible that it will reach it's goal. I was hoping it wouldn't be so borderline. If it seemed like a it was going to go beyond the 50, or just plain hit that sooner, I was going to get started on polishing it up that much sooner, but if it was going to seem almost clearly that it wasn't going to hit the goal, I could move on that much sooner. Bummer, but I guess it is what it is. Oh well.

Still, I'm going to remind people since it's looking like it might barely hit 50. That is the goal for me to just polish up what I have and release it as is. Meaning I won't be planning on adding features/improvements at all. And I can't give my personal guarantee that I'll put much if any effort into supporting it, like fixing bugs that crop up. I don't have a very solid plan right now, but the gist of my plan if it hits 50 is over 1-2 weeks (or until I just get sick off it) work on cleaning up the code, and try to locate what bugs that I can. At some point during that time, get a couple testers, get them to put it through some trials, fix anything more that comes up, and release it. That may sound like enough, but it isn't to me. I would want to put more effort into refining and testing a project before releasing it then that. At best the program would be just as good as zbattle. But if there are any annoying bugs, I may not have the will to fix them. In the past with my projects, the details people would give me on bug reports wasn't much. Little more then "it doesn't work right". It was like pulling teeth to get more details out of them so I could reproduce the issues. It was exhausting and frustrating. I would probably make a blog page for bugs to be posted, and check it and get to them only if/when I feel like it. With this release plan, just nothing is certain, and again, all I could say is that I can't promise anything. =/

However once released, if the user base grows well enough beyond what I was expecting from the 50 vote indications, I would be willing to reassess it's future and my interest in it.

Onto another, but related topic. There has still been no word from veeb. It would be disappointing to see him suddenly bring zbattle back again once my project is out there... again... Add on to that, it would be uncomfortable since my project is an exact clone. Granted, the zbattle users and I would have given him PLENTY of time to post to a forum, respond to my email, or inform someone trustworthy to do so. So if anyone has a problem with my clone existing while the original is around, I suppose the blame is all on him. If my project is released after 50 votes, then at any time zbattle is brought back, my project won't change. I won't put effort into trying to stop people from using it. I won't suddenly try to make it not be an exact clone and re-release it. I won't even completely declare my support for it dropped. Whether I release my project or not, I still might decide to release Z-Band some day. But I can't say for sure if that would be a replacement/upgrade for my clone project, or just an alternative. So both the clone and the original could be trying to coexist at the same time. I can't say for sure which project would be more successful. To many factors play into it all. But it isn't impossible for my clone to end up more well received and populated. And if it did, I would try not to feel to bad about my project doing it at the cost of population of the original.

News: Even More Z-Band Server Page Work

Monday, April 16, 2012

I had a wow raid today. And despite wanting to try out some Legend or Grimrock too, I didn't get around to it. When not raiding I only managed to get a little done for my projects. Most of my time was spent setting up a local php environment for developing. Making a change to my code, then uploading it to byethost and running it adds a ton of extra time to everything. And byethost just plain sucks a ton more then it used to. I'm noticing I cant even seem to click through 3 pages on the forum moderately quickly without this stupid high traffic error showing up. That wasn't a problem ever before. If I ever get Z-Band released, I certainly wont be able to use that POS service. Now more then ever I'm thinking I'm going to have to take donations to get a real server up and running if the project ever gets to that point.

Anyway, for now my php dev time has sped up a lot thanks to EasyPHP. I never wanted to try a local environment before because it was all to clunky. But not this. The install and setup for this is a lot easier and cleaner.

After that, I got to work on properly linking the phpBB3 accounts system. I got everything done for the login stuff now, though just with the registration. But the score update stuff should mostly be copy-and-paste from that. After that, I'm not really sure what I'll work on next. Perhaps making sure all forum accounts can gain rankings with Z-Band. The Z-Band score database is separate from the phpBB3 database, so a user isn't listed in the Z-Band database until I add their name. To keep the database clean, rather then just add new forum members to it with a 0 score for everything, I should probably tie it to the registration, and have the first time a users tries registering a match, generate it there as needed.

Perhaps tomorrow I can get some D3 or Legend of Grimrock in. =/

EDIT: Realized a forum registration issues that caused users to be unable to register. So if there were users wanting to do so, it's fixed now.

News: More Z-Band Server Page Work

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Today I played around with merging the Z-Band registration and score update pages with the phpBB3 forums. Unlike the other 2 previous pages, these 2 require being logged in to the forums to access. I have them working with getting the users account name, outputting messages correctly, and generally working as intended. But both have yet to really tie both into the php account system properly.

Once that's done though, I suppose streamlining them a bit would be best. Then I don't know. I'm considering making them useable as is, so people could do some rankings manually if they wanted. It would probably be a decent beta test for it all. But that's not to great of an idea with a lack of a proper client like Z-Net or zbattle. I can't say I'd recommended using ZN2 with it. I've considered making and releasing a Z-Net 2.0 Lite for the hell of it, so maybe that would make sense with it. lol

A Lite version would be little more then the "Launch Manually" options from ZN2, and a stripped down settings window. Basically just requiring users to log in mIRC as a normal IRC client, talk to other people in the room, and decide to play from there, leading to using those Launch Manually options. ZN2 regular could work just fine, and in should still kind of be easier then that. In theory. But I'll be honest. There were probably still a few bugs left in it before I stopped work on it, and I just don't feel like supporting those bugs right now. A lite version however would strip away most of what was potentially buggy. But this all is just an idle thought, and I don't know how serious I would be about making it. I suppose just putting it out there as on my mind is enough, and from there people could express their interest in it if they wanted. From there I'd give it more thought. At the very least, people could just install ZN2 right now and use nothing but those existing options if they wanted to keep it simple. But anyway, I'm getting sidetracked.

In other news. The poll is growing... well... surprisingly. 5 more since my last post. Combined with the growth from the day or 2 previous, and well, hmm. I'm not sure I'm ready to call fowl on it yet, but I'm skeptical. I think most of the recent votes are coming from the ZSNES forum post that I replied to. That post was around for several days before that, bringing hits. But not this much. Perhaps it was just my reply catching more google searches. If not, all I can do right now is say, if someone is stacking the votes, please stop. The goal was chosen for a good reason. For the users as much as for me. So that I would know there was enough people interested in using it to sustain a minimum player base so users are left with no one to play with, as little as possible. But hopefully that isn't the case, and instead things are just picking up, likely for the reason I said.

Also, since I've been staring at the forums so much lately, I got around to posting some starter and informational posts for if/when people start using them.

News: Updated Z-Band Leader Board and User Log Pages

Friday, April 13, 2012

Today I messed around with the forums and Z-Band LeaderBoard and UserLog pages, in a attempt to merge them, learn some more php, and lay some ground work for integrating the phpBB3 account system into Z-Band.

After a lot of what seemed like tossing aside the php knowledge I already had, I finally got enough of a understanding of some better php coding and phpBB3s style.

The pages are almost exactly the same as there were before, content and feature wise. Just now they look much nicer inside the phpBB3 skin I choose for the forum.

New LeaderBoard
New UserLog

The UserLog still looks off because I tried to keep it simple. The user log really is just a normal text log file. In fact, here's a link to that as well.

Text Log

All that the UserLog page does is read that text file and displays it inside of a html wrapper that's easier on the eyes. If I felt like putting more work into it, I could probably have the page read the different variables of the text log, and display them using html columns. That would look better, but it isn't really worth the effort right now.

If I work on this stuff more soon, it will likely be with registration and score updating stuff, that will then require a users account to be logged in before either can be done. Though I suppose I'm not really sure how I'm going to handle that. Requiring a user to actually visit the forums and log in before they can properly use Z-Band, sounds clunky. Ideally the login details would be best supplied in the program itself, and sent before anything else is tried.

In other news, I signed up for the Annual Pass for Wow, technically a few days after it came out, though blizzard lost that signup and forced me to have to sign up again 1 month later. I've been waiting for the MoP beta invite, but due to that 1 month later signup and them adding users based on their signup dates, I sadly won't likely get invited to soon. Lol, there's been like 6-8 waves of invites now too...

To my shock yesterday night, when checking my email I saw a beta invite from blizzard! it took me a min to realize though, that it wasn't a MoP beta invite. It was a DIII beta invite! lol

Sad I only get it under 1 month from its release date, but oh well. Thanks to my annual pass I will also have DIII. And whens that's out I'll be giving that a decent try seeing as I know several people who will be playing.

I never played D1. And I only recently played D2 just a little. When D2 was out, I was preoccupied with EQ. The 3d, depth of gameplay and whatnot were far better in EQ and I just didn't have the time for both, so despite knowing a few people who played D2, then mainly because EQ cost a fee every month and D2 didn't, I never gave D2 a serious try. Now for gaming I just have the old easy mode WoW, which takes up FAR less of my time. So I can afford to play both if I end up liking D3.

I won't be going into it expecting that I'm going to like it all that much. Being that it's another Blizzard game, like WoW I'll likely just mostly enjoy the playing with friends, and feel that while not great, it's the best thing available, and it kills time, so meh.

As I understand, the beta is short. So probably just over the next week or so I might get less done on my projects. Just a heads up.


I feel it's worth drawing some attention to. The poll has now hit the halfway mark and there's still just a little over half of the month left. It wasn't looking good before, but it now has a decent shot. Things seemed to have picked up in the past few days, for whatever reason.

Keep those votes coming!

News: Forums?

Friday, April 13, 2012

I planned to do some tinkering around with ZN or ZB today, but didn't get around to it. However I did mess around with some forums I set up in August. At the time I created them just for examples when teaching myself some php. And possibly to attempt to merge Z-Band account info with. I may still do that. But till now, I haven't really done anything with them.

I've felt there was no point of making them public, as I wouldn't expect anyone to care enough to use them. In the past when my Z-Net projects were active, having forums for them made sense. Right now, I have no such project really. Perhaps in the future is all.

Still, recently I figured, meh, whatever! There's not many good reasons, but enough to just post a link to them and let people use them if they would want to.

I've basically set them up around Z-Net and Z-Band. Anything relating to the past present, and future of those projects. It's just 3 simple forums right now, though I don't really expect a need for more.

Here's the link. I'll put it in the side menu later.


News: Brainstorming a New GUI

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I've been thinking about that some day I may have to use my own GUI for Z-Net 3.0 or Z-Band instead of the zbattle cloned GUI it has now, so I started pondering about how I could make it different. Rather than trying to think up different setups purely for the sake of being different, it of course makes sense to think of how things could be done better, if they can at all.

So from there I decided to create a step by step list of the entire process of zbattle and Z-Net 2.0, starting from installation, and ending at when 2 players are finished playing a game with each other. Without going into the details I came up with for all the steps, I'll just say that I boiled it down to 10 steps. From there I supplied details about each step for each project, and went back over it giving each step a ranking regarding issues. Issues mostly being confusion or based on how many things need to be done by the user to complete that step. I went into it figuring zbattle would clearly win, and to my surprise, that wasn't the case. Now I didn't show any biased in my scoring for Z-Net, as doing so would taint the results and screw up what I was trying to achieve with this. That said, while I did learn a little, my conclusions about this scoring is that it just isn't accurate enough to be conclusive. Both zbattle and Z-Net scored a 14, with a 10 being perfect. zbattle is clearly less confusing for a user overall compared to Z-Net. Maybe my scoring numbers should have been doubled, because if so I think that zbattle would have scored lower/better, though still not by as much as it should.

While not a perfect scoring system, I did however learn some from it. Both projects I felt lacked in certain areas by options not staring the users directly in the face, leading to a little or a little to much confusion. To anyone that's used both projects, it should be no surprise that the steps were the 2 projects showed most of their differences is in the steps going from game room creation/selection, to game selection, and to starting the game. Both projects had most of the points against them in those areas. Z-Net however only did as well as it did because it basically combines those 3 steps.

As of yet, I have no idea about how I will use this info. My goal I suppose would be to boil all steps down to a setup resulting in a score of 10, and use that setup with a new GUI. Seeing as those steps contributed the most points against each, it would indicate that that's the area I should work on if I want to make things easier. I'm not completely certain how though. One idea I've considered before with Z-Net and more so Z-Band, is a X-Band like auto matching system. Each users simply just selects a game they want to play, and then wait to be paired up. No game room list or pre-game discussion needed. However this option wouldn't be ideal for everyone. Some people may just want to play with friends, so a option to play with specific users would still need to be present. Some people may not like that kind of randomness, and instead would want to choose from a list of games themselves after talking with another user. I don't think there's any one option that offers all that. So in theory offering all options would be best. The thing is though, the choice between 3 options can be confusing itself. So offering that choice may be counterproductive. Additionally, offering such options is another "feature" I believe needs to be reserved for a project that has a sizable enough establish user base. For example, people who would prefer to use a random match making system might end up being forced to use a game room list because to few people are using the match making system. And to few people using a match making system could easily be a result of to few people using the match making system, just further feeding an issue. Or vise versa, match making could be more popular than the game room list for the same reason and with the same results. There's no doubt that when presented with multiple options, one of those options is going to end up being more popular than the other. But that popularity should only be because more users PREFER that option. Not because more users USE that option.

Still, there probably is a more optimal solution, and devoting some brain cells here and there to the issue is the only way it will be found. So it's something I will keep thinking about.

If anyone wants to discuss their ideas, here's the steps I listed for my brainstorming. Honestly, I had 2 more steps in it during my testing, as I was considering Z-Band and its match registration steps, but I removed those. #8, and maybe #9 could probably be ignored too as they too have little meaning in regards to zbattle and Z-Net.

01.) Install:
02.) Startup:
03.) Setup:
04.) Connection:
05.) Find Opponent:
06.) Game Selection:
07.) Starting Game:
08.) Game Progress:
09.) Finishing Game:
10.) Done With Opponent:

News: Thinking About the Future of My Z-Net and Z-Band Projects

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Last night I managed to dig up an email address for Veeb0rg, and I sent him an email asking him what the real status is with zbattle, and if he plans to bring it back. I have no idea if he will reply, or even received the email since his email account may very well have been hosted through the same server as the zbattle server (I think it is). Whatever he might respond with, I don't know what directions my projects might take. While I've made no promises about their futures, as I don't expect the projects to gain the kind of popularity I feel they would require, I personally would really love to release the projects and maintain them. With all the time I've invested into the different iterations over the years, I would really like to see one or more released and succeed.

Sadly though, I feel there's just to many projects around that despite lack of credit as such, are trying to follow in the footsteps of zbattle, Z-Net, and what I planned for Z-Band. Shortly after Z-Net 1.0, it was things like zConnector and ZeNP. Around the time of Z-Net 2.0, it was things like CGA. Now in the absence of zbattle which has persisted and dominated throughout those years, I find my self in the same position as I did with Z-Net 1.0. Z-Net 1.0 was never meant to be a ripoff of zbattle. It was inspired by it, but was created to replace it after zbattle was down for several months. Had it not have been down so long, I'd have never seriously considered making it. Z-Net 3.0 is in the same exact position. Z-Net 2.0 was, if anything, intended to be a non-laggy alternative to Kaillera, but was really developed just because I was bored and just purely wanted to create it how I felt Z-Net 1.0 should have been from the start, to prove it could work as a mIRC script. My thoughts about what I would need to do with a project like this to get it to succeed are always on my mind when thinking about the projects at all. I've considered shooting strait for the Z-Band idea, as I've always felt those features were strong enough to carve a spot for the project in the online emulator scene, as its a original idea. Sadly though, it seems yet again, even that I idea has become ripped off to an extent. Starting with CGA's blatant half assed Z-Band ripoff, and now continuing with 2 other projects I've learned of, to some extent.

So I really don't know what kind of future I could hope for with these projects. Competition is good with a lot of things, but not projects like these. That would just leave project mergers. While I'm not opposed to that idea, as one would expect, I'm sure posturing and politics would get in the way of that happening to easily. Using zbattle as an example. While I have never discussed a project merger with Veeb0rg, that I can remember, issues would likely be that despite zbattle having an established name in the scene, I wouldn't be interested in making a zbattle 2.0 (or 3.0? I forget...). I'd likely have done all the work on a new client myself, as Veeb0rg himself doesn't know how to code such a program (last I knew). So I'd adamantly want to name it myself, likely using the name Z-Net. I'd completely understand his point of view if he wanted to use the name zbattle, but I just plain wouldn't agree with it. And I'm sure a project merger would stall there. Project mergers with other relatable projects would be similar. Or possibly just require my involvement on someone elses client, of which I have zero interest. I don't care much for diving in and figuring out someone elses code, nor does hopping aboard someone elses projects as a new team member, high or low ranking, seem that interesting after experiences like with the EQC project. It may seem like a pretty selfish stance looking at my point of view from the outside, but it is what it is. I can't help that. I want to have fun while doing a project, and I know what things can seriously hinder that fun.

Anyway, I suppose it would be something, so I might as well officially throw this out there, as projects devs never usually even do this much. But I'm not opposed to a project merger of my own projects with another. There are likely to be issues making doing so not progress to easily if at all, but I can say that I'm willing to open talks about it.

Moving on to my projects as is. They're still just as I've previously stated. If things keep going the way they are, I would release Z-Net 3.0 under the conditions I've stated. And the same would go for Z-Band. If Veeb0rg decided to bring back zbattle soon, then I'm not certain on everything with Z-Net 3.0. I can pretty much state that the poll will be ignored, and I will no longer release Z-Net 3.0 purely because it reached some minimum number of votes. The project would likely go back to the state it was in before. From there, I'd likely purely work on Z-Band as a stand alone client itself when I'm bored, and if I were to release anything in the future, it would be that. If things were heading that direction, I'd likely create a new poll purely for interest in that project, but with no deadline. With zbattle being back up, and me focusing more on Z-Band, while not completely discarding GUI/feature similarity's to zbattle, I would likely put effort into my own design (learning from zbattle, and Z-Net 1.0/2.0 regarding what to/not to do.), as I've stated before cloning another program like that I only deem fine if the original project is dead. My own project would have to be different in my opinion. After taking my project in my own direction like that, I would become more interested in releasing something to the public, if only just beta versions I don't really intend people to seriously use.

Those are all the thoughts I can think of on those things right now.

Oh. I changed the Z-Band page and link too. It's now a page instead of a post, rewritten descriptions, a basic project log, and the links to those leader board and score tracking pages I made.

News: Continuing My Fun With the Z-Band Code

Monday, April 09, 2012

I messed around more with the Z-Band code. I refined it some more to be more inline with how the usage process is supposed to work. I added a "Register" button to the host and client windows of my zbattle clone. Once the host chooses a game, each player can then press that button. Once they do so, all the Z-Band magic starts its work and waits for the host to press the start game button, ZSNESW to load up on both ends, and players to start racking up the scores. Once their done and ZSNESW closes on one of their ends, Z-Band automatically un-registers the match with the server, and the new rankings can be viewed on my leaderboard page I created. I still love seeing it all in action!

Additionally, I set up a basic User Log page. There's not much purpose to it atm since this is a private project, but it was easy to setup. So why not? I created it for the tournament part of Z-Band, as I realized I was neglecting that part of the projects goal. A true tournament server would be much more involved and mostly automated, but this would at least allow a designated official to track the scores of the users to be manually calculated in a manually run bracket. There's not much to see outside of my personal testing results, but I don't mind linking this page. I'll likely link the Leaderboard later after I clean it up a bit. Its all basic though, so not much to see.

If/when I fool around with the code next, if my efforts aren't to clean the code up some more, it would likely be to refine the registration process even further. I think the goal of only needing the host to click a register button would be best. I could probably completely automate it, but even if I did release this project it would make sense not to force people into rankings. Sometimes you may just want to play causally, do some practicing, or not be listed at all. Its strange to be thinking about such considerations, as I hadn't really thought much about such things if the project got this far along. I suppose an auto register checkbox would make sense. But I also have to think about the case were one player isn't even signed up with an account. This would be more code I'd have to work on, but not something I think I would be working on at this stage of the project. Core stuff first and foremost!

In other news. To help give the poll more of a chance at reaching the results I hope for, I extended the deadline by 2 days to the exact end of this month. Traffic to my blog could pick up by then, but I still don't see it as looking good to hit that reasonable 50 vote minimum. Sadly, while these projects rely on users to do the bulk of advertisement, users generally just don't do it. I understand why, but it does suck. =( I can track my blogs hits and were they're coming from. Only really one person has tried telling other people as far as I can see, and even there (the ZSNES forums) the interest has been non-existent because that forum is a ghost town compared to what it used to be. Most of the hits come from google and my efforts to catch as many potential hits from it as I can. While I'm against the idea of me personally signing up for different forums and attempting to inform people, I was recently considering it with one place I won't mention by name. I figured I'd just see how friendly the community is first before I'd consider it more. Sadly, not to friendly it seems. That matters to me only because I have a feeling they may be unwilling to accept my project, perhaps even aggressively. And well, starting a community around this project, full of unfriendly people, of course doesn't sound to good. Still though, my effort so far may have just been to poor. So I might try again sometime.

Anyway, to better explain myself as to why I will only do so much advertising. First, doing so sucks. I've hated it with my past projects. I'll spare the details as to why it sucks, but for me as the developer of the projects, it just does. Second, I feel it would be counterproductive to what I'm trying to get out of the poll. If the project doesn't have enough users that would be willing to do what they can to help it grow, then I just don't see much hope for the projects future. Third is based of the state of this project. It's current state is about a poll. Not a downloadable/useable program itself. If it were about the program itself, as much as I'd hate it, I would probably be scouring the internet for websites to submit the project to as news. I just don't think many people would figure a poll is main page news. A poll is something more suited to something like a random or regular user posting about on a forum. Fourth I guess would be that, I've already done plenty myself, and that my time is part of the issue with this project. Sure I can get bored from time to time. but when I do, my time is spent on this blog, or on my projects. And I'm just 1 man. You guys are many. With your help, this could spread much further, faster, and with less individual effort then I could do alone.

Anyway, I just felt I might need to share that.

News: Boredum, Z-Net 3.0, and Z-Band

Sunday, April 08, 2012

I've been really bored lately. I log in WoW for a few minutes, get bored, and log out. This boredom has caused me to start fiddling with the Z-Net 3.0 code some over the past few days. I mainly just wanted to see in what state I left the code at after reinstalling msvc++2008. While exploring it, I fixed a few bugs I thought of. Mostly stuff with the games list window and how game rooms are opened from it. As is though, It's just as I've said. Fully working, but with some fine tuning needed.

I quickly got to the point were I didn't want to mess with bugs anymore until the poll shows enough interest from people. So I got bored again. This time I decided to fiddle with the client side end on the Z-Band stuff I worked on a few months ago. At the same time I figured I'd see how much work it would take to put that code into the Z-Net 3.0 project. Not properly implemented, but just merged and functioning.

I was able to port it into the Z-Net 3.0 code much easier then I thought. It's probably the messiest code I've ever done, but it's in, and working! But it still wasn't setup to work with the server setup I designed a few months ago.

After a lot more messy coping, pasting, and editing of my code, I finally got it all working together! Yay! It's nice to see all this code working as I wanted, and it's awesome to see this project I envisioned so many years before, working so beautifully! Beautifully meaning you can barely tell anything is happening at all. The Z-Band project page, and some of my old blog posts would explain what this is about if you don't know, but I'll try so sum it up how the project would be right now.

Z-Band is the name for the score tracking code I've developed. It's created with he intention to be used for tournaments and leader boards. You might have heard of something like this before from projects that seemed to have poorly ripped off the Z-Band idea I first introduced back in 2003 or 2004, but this is different in that this doesn't rely on the honor system/intelligence of players regarding correctly submitting their game results. Z-Band does this automatically! It actually watches your game as you play it, and it instantly sees new score results as they happen and automatically updates the server. No input is required from the user at all. In fact, all the users would have to do that's extra for this, is in theory press a single button to register the match with the server, unless I could eliminate that step as well.

The only limits of this is that Z-Band needs to be coded for each game individually. But If I had the time/desire, I could probably have it support every popular multiplayer SNES game, and I see no reason why I couldn't branch it out into other console emulators if I used it in a project that supported more (Like Z-Net 2.0). Right now I have it coded for SMK, as that's the game I've always used when developing it. But in the last version I had working with Z-Net 2.0, it supported SFII and GWED as well, with support for Bust-a-Move being worked on by request (maybe finished). Enabling SFII and GWED with this new setup shouldn't take much more work.

This project is far from being useable for average players however. For many reasons. The servers PHP was coded by a beginner (Me), the client code is a complete mess right now as I said, and it has a lot of work that would need to be done to be properly implemented for players to use as intended. And of course, I have zero plans to get back into the emulation netplay scene right now, unless the poll results come back favorably. In the scenario in which people do show enough interest to draw me back enough to release the Z-Net 3.0 project, that would be the first step. As much as I would want to, as Z-Band is my favorite project, I could/would make no guarantees. The Z-Band project has always been one that pushes my coding limits, and I wouldn't commit to it when its so far from finished. And despite being my favorite project, I have zero interest in attempting to make it without one of my Z-Net projects being successful first, as I would intend on linking them together.

If I were to move this project forward towards release, Z-Net 3.0's demand and release would be the start and absolute minimum. After that, it's success in maintaining a decent amount of users would be next of course. Beyond that, I'm uncertain. Someone else who's much better at PHP then me to take charge of the server code, would help a ton. And I might want to add support for a few more games as well.

For now, I suppose this projects goal is exactly what its doing right now. Killing time when I'm bored. Though I do wish someday I could release it. We will see.

Release: Super Mario Kart - Z-Net Special 3 (v2)

Saturday, April 07, 2012

I recently discovered EpicEdit. It's a track editor for SMK that's much newer the the editor TrackDes that I used years earlier for my SMK hacks. TrackDes had various limitations that caused me to have to make compromises with my design plan for my 3rd SMK battle mode hack. Those limitations don't exist with EpicEdit, so recently I decided to download EpicEdit and poke around this old hack of mine. To my surprise it worked quite well to the point were it didn't take that long to fix the hack to be more inline with my original design plans.

So here it is, the new version of my 3rd SMK hack. All 4 battle mode courses have had some updates, but #1 and #3 have had the most. I could go on and try and describe what I've done, but that would be boring. it's in the readme though. Just download it and have some fun!

I'll add it to the Z-Net Special page soon, replacing the other link. I'm undecided if I'm going to make new screenshots and pics for it at any point.

I don't have any plans to revisit the other 2 hacks, as I'm fairly certain the 1st had no such issues, and while the 2nd might have had some odd tile placement here and there, if it did, due to the nature of the hack, it does little to effect the design goal.

I have no plans to work on a 4th hack right now, but someday, who knows. I had some ideas that due either to the limits of TrackDes, or my own hex editing limits, I never got to use.

Z-Net Special 3 (v2)


News: Z-Net 3.0 - Adjusting the Voting Goal

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

After thinking about it for a few days, 150 votes is a bit much to expect. While zbattle likely had that many users or more, it didn't have enough to were I should expect 150 of them to find their way to my little blog. I should shoot for some more realistic number of votes, as all that would really matter is how many people are using the program at any given time once I did release it. Additionally, based on the amount of interest, I simply may release it "as-is" with as much polish as I care to invest time into it, then move on with no plans to maintain it outside of critical issues. The new minimum goal for that plan is now 50. If the poll gets more votes, depending on how many, I'll evaluate if I'll want to invest time into maintaining it.

Also, I temporarily removed the link from the side menu to the 2010 client page, to help avoid confusion. I included a link to it in the contents of the new client page as a reference though. I've also moved the 2.0 link down on the side menu to the past projects menu to help avoid confusion as well. I can always move it back later.

I've fixed some broken links to files hosted on megaupload too. To my shock, I also noticed that I typed up, but never posted my Super Mario Kart hacks or AR Extractor program. The SMK post is now up, and posted at the original date when I created it. So its not on the main page. However, there is now a link to it on the left under "Past Projects". The AR Extractor I'll leave as is for now, and likely place it on a "Misc" page at a later date.