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.