Mega Man X Playthrough

Friday, December 27, 2013

Last night I fixed my SNESJoy. I then decided to play some Mega Man X with it.

Since I've been messing with streaming, I decided it was a good opportunity to do a impromptu play through of it on twitch like I didn't get done on XMas with Zelda, A Link to the Past.

Again, it was just me playing and chatting through text chat. No mic or anything.

The total air time was just a little over 4 hours, but I took a 30m break once, and stopped to chat some (Starting at 1:57:41 you will see me stop moving for several seconds to type).

I'm an experienced MMX player, but I'm definitely not a pro. So don't expect that much. It wasn't a speedrun or anything. You will notice I stick to the X-Buster a lot, and only resort to boss weapons when I don't feel like dealing with something any further. It's a completionists run. Meaning I got everything including the Hadouken. I tried not to use it to much, as I'm used to using it in my play throughs over the years, but I did put it to some use at the end after I beat the dog and Sigma1 each once without it. That's how I rationalized using the cheesy weapon, because at that point I was getting tired.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Normally for Christmas I like to release a project, an update, or even just some progress news. But given the state of my projects right now, that's just not remotely possible.

But I have an idea! Let' s have a game-a-thon of sorts!

There's something about xmas and Thanksgiving. The temperature, the lighting, the smells. It always takes me back and makes me remember playing various Legend of Zeldas. So I've been thinking, why not play through one of the greatest Zeldas of all time, A Link to the Past! And more, why not share it with others!

Twitch is something I've considered doing for awhile now, but never really looked into as I'm just not quite sure what I'd want to do on it or get out of it. So I cobbled together this plan at the last minute, and I'm not all that prepared. No mic, no fancy effects, and no real motives outside of just sharing some fun. I don't expect this to be to popular of a steam or anything today because I'm unknown in the world of streaming and there's not going to be much going on except me playing through Zelda ALttP, and maybe doing some text chatting. But I hope those of you who do watch can find some enjoyment!

DarkAkuma's Christmas Twitch Stream

UPDATE: I played for 1 and half hours. I decided to stop there as no one was watching, and my hands were starting to hurt. I planned to play using my SNESJoy, but at the last minute it decided to break. I played through to the Sanctuary with my wireless pad, but it annoyed me with its button sticking, missing, delays, and having to use a analog stick. I switched to the keyboard after, and while I was able to get as far as I did, it was uncomfortable and caused me to play worse then I should.

I may finish the play through on new years eve if people want. And if I can get my SNES pad working.

For now, if you want, you can find the first part of my play through here.

Rethinking the future of Z-Net... again...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It's now been 3 weeks since I posted a very important post over on the Z-Net website. One were I absolutely require feedback from people. Average readers may not notice, but I put a lot of thought and work into the post. I did so in an effort to draw in that much needed feedback. But sadly that effort seems to have been wasted, much like I to often feel about the Z-Nets themselves. The amount and quality of responses has fallen well below my minimum hopes. So I'm left to once again consider if I even want to continue with the projects.

To me Z-Net I has been a huge failure. I of course created it to fill in the loss of zbattle. Within the year before zbattle disappeared I saw the user count in the 50-100s range. But try as I might, ZNI could never break 25. I also tried harder to create a community. One I could communicate with was necessary, so I focused on English speakers. For that reason and for increasing the odds of pleasant interactions among the users. But that failed as well. The forums were rarely posted on. The chat room addition flopped, seeing users rarely chat outside of whining, asking for help with basic things, or just disregarding the 1 rule that's always right in your face when you open the window.

So the Z-Net I project has been one huge disappointment for me, and a giant headache overall. So whatever fun I have coding quickly evaporated when I saw such a lack of users, or users who just misuse, abuse, or ignore everything.

Z-Net 3: Feedback Needed

Friday, November 22, 2013

Recently I made a new post on the Z-Net website. The purpose of the post is to get the community involved and started for Z-Net 3.

I absolutely need feedback from people to help decide the direction of the project in many ways, and in particular right now I need to know what emulator people would like the most for Z-Net 3 to support.

So please head on over and share your thoughts! I can't do this without you!

Z-Net Homepage: What Emulator do you want Z-Net 3 to support first?

Z-Net 3: An Update on Updating!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How could an update with cool new features be even better?

Not having to download and install it!

Looking back at all of my Z-Net projects, zbattle, Kaillera and others, I find it kind of strange what common feature so many other programs have that they all lack. The feature I'm talking about is "Automatic Updating".

Think about it. The purpose of these programs has been to make tedious and somewhat complicated tasks simple and mostly automated. So why should installing new releases be any different? Sure, with a good installer, installing a update requires little more then mindlessly pressing a "Next" button over and over, but there's room for improvement.

Without Automatic Updates users need to know a update is available on the website, go there, find the link, download it, run the installer, spam left mouse click a half dozen times, and run the newly installed program.

All that can simply be replaced with "See the program inform you an update is available, then proceed to download, install and run the update itself". That can require no user interaction at all. Or at the most a "Yes/No" prompt asking the user if he wants to install the update.

News: Status Update

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I ended my last project related post stating that I might take a break. And that's just what I've done! This year I've ground away time and effort across 3 projects, ZNI, Z-Band, and ZN3. 4 if you count that I scrapped a version of ZN3 restarted it. So it shouldn't be a big surprise that I needed this break.

I've recently decided though that I'm at least a little interested in resuming work on ZN3, and that I'd test the waters and see just how interested I can get. I came to find though that I left it off at a difficult point. Generally when I resume a shelved project, I start with minor things to ease myself into it. But with ZN3 I have a huge task I have to tackle. A completely new feature not seen before in my previous projects, and a LOT of considerations and decisions to be made in relation to it. (I won't reveal the feature just now. I don't like to do that until at least the feature is mostly done.) This has caused me to realize my need for more organized planning.

With past projects, planning was easy. ZNI mimics the design of zbattle with some ZN2/ZN1 knowledge mixed in, ZN2 refines the design of ZN1 with additional emu support, ZN1, well was a mess, but I was still learning basics back then. Other projects of mine through out the years were either simple, had another program to be based off of, or in the case of Z-Band was developed little by little over years. ZN3 however has a different feel, despite on the surface having previous projects for me to base it off of. I'm really trying not to get locked into any previous design elements. And I'm trying to bring as much new as I can to it's design. But still I also have several other previous Z-Net that can be seen as of having compiled data for me to learn from. So it's helpful to analyze every aspect of them and how to use that analysis when moving forward with ZN3.

The analysis of that data as a whole is something I haven't done before. Even just considering ZNI, that's a lot to think about. Thus far I've been moving forward with vague ideas, and a gist of what I've learned from ZNI and ZN2. And I can no longer do that. I've decided I need to start outlining my thoughts on ZN3's design in print. Like in a text file. That's something I've done for years with a single feature at a time as I've deemed necessary. It's very helpful. But now I think I need to do it for the whole project. I need to write something thorough and something I can read to easily understand choices I've made, years later when looking at the project. I've looked at aspects of ZNI and wondered why I chose to do something the way I had, and while the answer may be in my brain it's a waste of time spent trying to remember it. The design document is kind of like why you comment code. Be kind and helpful to you're future self and others who may work on the project.

And that's what I'm doing now. Writing my design doc, analyzing design elements from previous projects, and trying to figure out the best choices to move forward considering all the data I can get. This is kind of boring, but much needed. At the moment I have puzzles on my plate to solve. Hopefully I can soon thoroughly consider all the related details, make some decisions, and start moving forward with actual coding work.

EverQuest Next Details Finally Released!

Friday, August 02, 2013

I just got done watching the live stream event for EverQuest Next. As a huge fan of early EQ1, my hopes were high. Sadly my faith was low due to every MMO since then, including post 2003 EQ1 being a huge disappointment. I've learned not to expect much from MMOs since I was massively disappointed with Vanguard, which was slated to be the spiritual successor to early EQ1. That ended up just being a poor clone of World of Warcraft, as it resembled that far more then EQ1.

Going into this stream, the things I was hoping for the most were the come back of long missed features and elements of EQ1 that have been lacking in MMOs since. Like a almost pure focus on PvE, focus on grouping to level rather then soloing/quest hubbing, elongated gameplay instead of instant gratification, focused classes (I.E. not classes that should be healers or tanks having DPS specs), non-instanced dungeons, class roles beyond Tank/Healer/DPS, like puller, crowd control and buffers/debuffers. Heck even corpse draggers. Long quests that elicit a more rewarding feeling upon completion, ability to lose EXP as well as having to get back to your corpse providing a better sting when dieing to make you avoid it more, dependency on other players for things like ports, buffs, food, etc. No real money for weapon/armor exchange. The list could go on and on. Some people hated some of those back in the day, but me and many others have come to realize over the years how truly wonderful those were for crafting a quality MMO experience. It's fine for other MMOs to diverge on those here and there. There shouldn't be a single MMO that has to appeal to everyone. MMOs should offer different things, and not just be WoW clone after WoW clone like we've had to endure.

Well with that all said about my mindset and desires going into this event, now that its over.... I'm disappointed. I can't completely write off EQN right now. The fact is, despite what seems to be a majority of the people who even cared about this (older EQ1 fans), they mentioned basically nothing that could even so much as elude to what EQ1 elements we miss are coming back in EQN. The presentation focused purely on new features, that I personally care little about. Features that really don't convey what the game will be like relating to the ways that EQ1 veterans would care about.

But that's all I have to go on for now, so I'll have to talk about those features.


First up, the Graphics. I know a lot of whiny trolls will complain about the art style. Calling it to cartoony, like that's a bad thing and a insult. So what? I've learned over the years, the more computer GFX artists try to make things look real, the worse they actually make them. I'm perfectly fine with a more freed artistic style of GFX. While I've had many complaints about WoW,  only one has ever been about it's GFX (It's fugly armor style, featuring stupid looking massive shoulder pads). Honestly, I don't think a realistic GFX style will look good in a MMO until path tracing/ray tracing technology has been perfected and starts getting used. That's still several years out. I can also put things simply:

Gameplay > Graphics.

Day/Night System:

Next, I'll talk about the day and night cycle. It's nice to see such a day/night system. I thought I was going to have to wait till path/ray tracing to see such type of dynamic lighting. The baked lighting of EQ1 wasn't much of a concern for the time, but looking back I know the feel of the game would have been improved if a more dynamic lighting like this was possible. This feature is probably the only feature I'm 100% happy to see.

Character Models:

Next, the character models. As a fan of VN's, I'm happy to see models that allow for more expressive characters. Expressions are a subtle thing most wouldn't even think of with games. But as humans we are designed to be responsive to expressions. For gaming, they can really help make a story more powerful and moving. For PC avatar to avatar interactions, well, I don't know for sure. I'll have to wait and see. Personally I'll lean towards the positive side and think they will help give the game a depth of feel and interaction that many won't have ever realized they missed and sorely needed.

However, one of my big complaints about WoWs design style were the big stupid over exaggerated shoulders, and well, armor in general. Seeing that Kerran with what to me, looks almost exactly like that armor style I hate, is of concern. I might be able to be fine with it if its Tank/plate classes only. But even then, the over exaggeration is stupid. At the least don't let that dumb armor style touch lighter armor classes. At the most, get rid of it altogether.

Multi-Class System:

Next, the multi class system. Sadly, little was revealed about that to form an opinion. It could easily be horrible, but I just have no idea if it will be or not. In theory being able to make your char unique always sounds good. As humans, we like to know we are one of a kind. In games however this rarely works out. WoW is a great example. Early WoW touted its talent system for allowing you to have your character be unique. In reality, cookie cutter builds were developed, and if you didn't use them you were ridiculed as a newb, or just plain sucked. After many revamps of the talent system, Blizzard finally gave up with MoP it seemed. In a MMO, there's always going to be an optimal path, and a large portion of players are going to want to follow that path to be the best they can be.

The multi class system could suffer the same issues. We know Warrior and Wizard will be 2 of the 8 classes. Unconfirmed, but idly mentioned were Monk, Bard, and Ranger. How such classes diverge with a multi-classing system, I have no idea right now. I would think and hope a Wizard can't start learning Warrior abilities and vice versa. So it will probably be something more similar to WoW, where a wizard can specialize more in frost, fire, and arcane. But possibly less fixed like that. You get the spells you want, locking you from getting certain others. And there being a more EQ1 style of variety like with Evocation, Alteration, etc. I'm really guessing here. I have no idea. I just hope we don't see things like DPS Clerics, DPS Warriors, well, all classes having DPS specs period. Thats something that really made WoW suck, and got worse over the years.

Terrain Deformation:

Now, terrain deformation. It's interesting. It isn't something I was asking for at all. It certainly is something games have lacked, but I don't think it was sorely needed. It could certainly add to the feel of the game.

EverQuest Next Landmark:

The whole Landmark creation stuff, well, on the surface sounds silly. It's easy to joke that it's a Minecraft ripoff. Who cares? Judge it on the feature itself and what it truly does for the games experience. That will have to wait till people get their hands on it though. Minecraft is popular for a reason. People like to be creative. With a MMO, this type of feature could be great. I like the idea of designing things and being able to sell them. Though I'm certain in practice that wont be as awesome as one could imagine. I just hope the real money transactions stick to that stuff, and not things like armor and weapons. That would be horrible.

Other Stuff:

Finally, what could be gleaned is a focus on 3rd person view. This is disappointing to me. I was hoping SOE would try sculpting a quality 1st person view experience. I personally don't feel there much of a middle ground. Meaning a games good in first person, but sucks in third or is good in 3rd but sucks in first. The first person view was a big part of the experience in EQ1. You were your character. The 3rd person view sucked. I just couldn't play it, even after playing WoW for a couple years. In WoW the opposite was true. I found it very hard to use the 1st person view for very long. The game was just to designed for 3rd person view and its spacial awareness. As well as its particle effect mess. I was looking forward to a good MMO experience on the Oculus Rift. I'm sure in time there will be support, and I'm certain there will be a 1st person view mode, but I doubt it will feel right as the game will have been designed with 3rd person view in mind. I hope it isn't to late to change this. Or that maybe the 3rd person stuff was just for visuals for the presentation. Like they want to show off their character models, and can do that in 1st person. Again, the lack of details with this presentation sucks.

EDIT: After posting this, the website is no longer worthless. And one of the first things I learned when browsing it is very saddening... EQN will be F2P. That alone tips my my following opinion on things leaning to the positive side, into the negative. The F2P model doesn't belong in a EQ game at all. I don't care for it in any game, but especially something with the EverQuest name.

Final Thoughts:

To wrap things up, as a whole these features lean more on the positive side. But thats just because some features that could be bad had little detail released. And the positive stuff doesn't lean that direction all that strongly. Overall it was a pretty lackluster presentation, not living up to the build up at all. And again I have to chastize them for their utter lack of confirmations about the features that all the EQ veterans that they act like they care about, want to know are making it into the game. It's like establishing a fanbase around say, Shiny Red Apples. And drumming up a bunch of hype saying "For all of our fan who love our Shiny Red Apples, you'll love this! Here's our new food..... Cabbage!". Like there's some direct relation between the 2 that fans of one will necessarily care about the other. Continuing my example, a Green Apple would make sense. Or at least a fruit that in some way compares. We EQ1 veterans need details for comparison. Or else why do you even care about us like you try to act like you do. My example is meant to illustrate the contrast of the expectations versus results of this presentation only, and not to say that people that like Shiny Red Apples wont like Cabbage, or people that like EQ1 won't like EQN. It's more to point out the failure target the presentation towards the people who were made to feel like it was intended for.

I'll be following the project while still keeping my expectations low. I was hoping this presentation would finally let me know if EQN was finally going to be the MMO I've been waiting for or not, so I could give up all hope and move on or not. Sadly, I'm still left waiting...

The images in this post come from and are included just to reference what I'm talking about where applicable.

News: Z-Net 3 is back on track

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Today I finished up work on getting the Qt code version of ZN3 back to where I stopped off at on the old scrapped version. As far as I can tell right now, everything I accomplished in that version has been covered again. Sadly, along the way I found some design holes that stood out that I still didn't fix. Most revolving around the addon's though. At the moment I'm still using the non-Qt addons. I plan to rewrite them in Qt, but my hope is to also support addons written in other languages.

A goal of ZN3 is to allow people other then me to create addons for use with the program. My primary focus right now is on addons that add netplay launching support for emus and games, but I hope to facilitate others later on in the design of the program.

Now that ZN3 is back to were it was, next I can focus on things such as refining the addons to remove those holes in the design. That could be what I work on next. But thee are several things I need to fix up. Like the avatar support. In both versions of ZN3, avatar support is incomplete. It will display one if you have it, but won't download it if you don't. I've decided to mimic the KVirc AVATAR protocol. Theres no IRC standard for such things, so you kind of have to pick and choose your own. At the moment it's setup to match that AVATAR protocol exactly, but I may modify it. I think I remember finding it lacking something. Anyway, the protocol allows you to either DCC an avatar from a user, or users can specify a URL. I might not support the DCC method at all. I'm not certain yet. At the moment I have no size restrictions set, for dimensions or file size. But I will later. For now though it's nice to see that I can easily resize the dimensions of a pic down. 64x64 pixels is what I'm going with for now, but should be able to be easily adjusted later if needed. As a bonus, I got animated gif avatars working too! Well, at least I can support them. I may remove it later before release. Depends if I feel people would abuse such feature to much or not.

Speaking of animated gifs. I got them working in the chat buffer too! I don't like the code used to do it to well, but it works, and performance hits are minimal, or zero if you minimize the window. Such support would mostly be for animated emoticons. I don't expect them to flood the chat buffer as much as they do for my stress testing. But I should plan for over use as much as possible. The whole emoticon feature is something I've been reluctant to add. Those and colors I've notice people tend to over use when they have access to them. They think their being cool or funny, and instead are just being annoying. Doing things like posting a big wall of emotes. Heck, some of you may have seen me use my rainbow text script. That's a perfect example of how things could be annoying. I'll probably work into the design to allow channel ops/owners to disable use of things like these if they want. And beyond that, they can always have bots that monitor text. I intend for individual rooms to have their own rules that are enforced by their own mods. Not me. Me and any Z-Net mods would just be covering rooms for addons I make, and even then I may try to pass off responsibility to others.

Well anyway. Since ZN3 is back to were it was, that means it's able to launch netplay games again! But with my recoding I've realized how much refinement of the procedure and protocol I still need to do. During design I find myself asking myself questions a lot. Like "Could this be done better?". Sometimes the rough idea I have vaguely outlined in my head doesn't quite convert as well to the quality I thought it would, right away. There may be aspects I just couldn't visualize until I'm seeing things in front of me.

I don't think there's going to be a lot of additions and advancement for the project in the near future. Instead I'll probably be working on refining and redesigning things until I'm happy.

Below is a updated pic to show where the project is at now. It's not to much different from the last one, visually. So I made certain to show some other bits. Like the Select a Game menu button in action That's the blue button in the message window. The red one pops up a similar list for the options windows, like shown at the bottom. (It's ugly, I know.). All the megamans are a animated gif looping. While in a still pic you can't see animations, it's intended to show off the feature. Compared to the last pic, the numbers next to Emu names in the list are new. They represent how many users are in that room. The blue and red buttons in that window are for adding/deleting friends FYI. And I'm sure someones gong to wonder about it sooner or later. The thing that looks like an dummy advertizement at the bottom of that window, is just that. It's a development place holder for an advertizement. The project and website has costs, and this should help cover them where the website ads alone have failed.

Before moving on much more, I may take a break. I've been grinding away pretty hard at this, so a break might do me some good. I may even try fixing the protocol signing problems with ZNI again.

News: Z-Net 3 re-re-write...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Since my last post I made some progress on Z-Net 3. It was going quite well and was functional, though unrefined. But I got to a point were I was having trouble figuring out something, and when looking into how others get around the issue I learned of a new (to me) GUI class library. I've been using Win32++, which is a partial clone of MFC just with no licensing BS. But it often proves insufficient leaving me needing to rely on raw WinAPI calls. Such cases slow down and complicate development more then it needs. Without realizing it, I've been needing to find a new class library for awhile. And Qt is that library!

After examining its licensing hurdles, ease of use, and capabilities for a few days I concluded I needed to use it. Even if it meant starting the Z-Net 3 code from scratch yet again. There are to many pro's, and very few con's (if any other then wasting my time on previous work). In my few days of examinations of Qt, I focused on replicating certain aspects of ZN3 in disposable test apps to see if Qt could do what I want, and usually just how easily it could. It met all my requirements except one. That being able to natively access and change the non-client area of frame windows. Thankfully I've done that work already with non-Qt code, and indications seem to point to being able to port my code to work with Qt. So I'll mess with that later, and move forward for now.

At this time the new Z-Net 3, that's now coded in Qt, is maybe 75% of the way back to were it was. Development goes faster when I can use my previous discarded work as a guideline. Though I have made improvements on even that. Whats still lacking is opening of addon options windows (easy), and anything to do with initiating a netplay game itself. These were working in the non-Qt version of ZN3, but I just haven't worked on them yet. Netplay initiation revolves around the output area of the message windows. And I need to rewrite the output code completely. Part of what caused me to find Qt is complexity's in the text output code, and even then I was realizing I needed to completely rewrite what I had. So I've been putting this part off as long as I could.

To explain, netplay initiation revolves around links. With Z-Net I you had buttons to click to do everything. Such a setup isn't very intuitive anymore, and is something I badly wanted to get away from. It's a setup strait from 1995 along with everything else zbattle. Some of those button functions will be located in the Toolbar. But some as links in the chat output area. Links similar to a webpage link in a browser. In the non-Qt Z-Net 3 I got links working, but they were messy and there were limitations. In addition to links, the output area needs to support the display of images. In part to have this client more truly step up as a normal feeling chat client with smileys and other such text->image conversions. But it will also help in other planned ways I won't go into right now. But I can at least say that I intend for Z-Net 3 to be much more visually appealing and interactive than other projects that came before.

In fact, I'll post a screenshot of it right now to demonstrate. But keep in mind, a lot of the UI has been customized just to know that I can and that's it. I plan to do real color and image related layout design as a later step, hopefully involving someone who's better at artwork then myself. However I will say that I do intend for the (default?) color scheme to be darker oriented, at least similar to what I have now.

News: Z-Net I and Z-Net 3 Status

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Since my last post I've been trying to keep busy. ZNI obviously is giving me mixed feelings. Since that post the population just fluctuates wildly. There have been several days since then were I've seen 20+ users, but the population just isn't attaining a quality stable average. As much as I want to see it hit 30 users, a stable average of 20 would be nicer for now.

While I'm not ready to call it quits on the project yet. Even if I was, I still would want to fix the current issues first. But sadly that's a waiting game, and data isn't coming in to quickly. So I need to pass the time somehow.

How I've decided to pass the time is resuming work on ZN3. The way I left it off, it wasn't even in a state were I'd even consider the project underway or could label the progress state. Because what I did have I felt I could scrap at any time. And well, I did just that. I started over. I decided to scrap some ideas that were just slowing me down to much. One being the use of non-dialog windows. I felt it would be good to break away from the crutch of dialog windows, and learn more about creating normal windows. But I was finding it was to involved to do what I'd want, knowing how simple it would be using a dialog frame. Since switching to dialog windows things have gone much more smoothly/quickly. The project is still going to take awhile due to all my goals for it, but its nice not having unnecessary aspect slowing it down even more then it needs to be.

The other thing I've abandoned, at least for now, is the custom window skin. After completing work on the titlebar, titlebar buttons, and border frames, I gained a fairly decent idea of how much work its going to take to achieve all my goals for a custom skin. I'm sure I can do it, and that what I learned from that would help the rest go more quickly. But it was exhausting. And it was keeping the project from even being anything more then a demo window with a half finished custom skin. Certainly not anything resembling a netplay client.

I figured, custom skin or not, I want something useable as a netplay client soon to even feel like the project was underway. So with a bland GUI, I have made progress on just that!

I was able to transplant the IRC code into the new ZN3. Created a few windows. Then started linking them all together to do something. It's now working fairly well as a basic custom IRC client. I've certainly progressed passed the ZN3 version that I scraped. ZN3 now has its main window functioning like I envisioned. The message windows now look and work better. I started work on addon support. In fact, I have 2 addons that themselves are very usable and probably about 90% done compared to the final version they will end up as. I knew it wouldn't be hard, which is why I was putting it off till later. I just felt I needed something to work with to get aspects of the main program dialed in.

It's crude, but I have those addons launching netplay with emus as intended, but from test buttons. Not from how they will be launched in later versions as intended. They even supply info like icons/avatars, irc channel name, etc. Things are loading dynamically from addons just how I want it.

I even added some basic support for displaying images in the chat window buffer, like for smileys. lol.

Well, now that I have ZN3 at this point, in addition to feeling like the project is actually underway now. I can now refine my ideas and more accurately see how they can apply to the program. To the point were I can now confirm for certain how some aspects are going to be.

I've probably stated it elsewhere before, but ZN3 is going to resemble a IM client more. With ZNI/zbattle, the main window was a game room list. With ZN3 the main window is a name list. Kind of like a IM clients "Friends List" window. ZN3's main window will have a friends list, but this is also where the names of users are who are also in the channels you are in. The layout is a tree control (like a standard folder select dialog, except better). Each main branch represents a supported emu. Sub items in that branch can be different things. Generally though the sub items are a list of names in the default channel for that emu. Default channels will be given for every supported emu, hard coded in the addon. These will be English rooms targeted at everything to do with that emu. While not fully implemented yet, the current plan is for users to be allowed to make sub channels. Generally these would probably be different language channels, or perhaps channels for specific games or communities. I'm undecided right now if sub channels will have to be approved to be used, or can be joined freely.

Anyway, double clicking a channels name on this list will open its chatroom. Double clicking a users name anywhere in this entire list will open a private message window with them. While a ZNI type of game room list/game room setup isn't decided on yet, PM windows will function closely to a game room window in that, from it either user of the conversation can select a game supported by any of the supported emus. That user will be marked as host. The other user will have the option to accept playing that game with that user, and will be marked as client if he does. The emus will then load and connect. The process is somewhat reversed compared to ZNI in that the client would essentially be pressing the start button. But it makes sense. If there is something resembling a ZNI game room list, the game between these 2 users would be listed once underway.

I'm tossing around ideas, but a game room list feature isn't close to decided on yet. To the point it may not have one at all, and instead something else. Rest assured though, I fully intend for there to be some method of easily finding strangers and launching games with them. Strides so far have just been around games among friends, as doing that was easier. At the very least this method can be used among strangers if they talk in a chat room first. But something else can probably be done that's easier for users. My goal is to try to improve upon previous styles of such client if I can, which is why I'm even considering not having a game room list and trying to leave myself open for something else.

At this point, ZN3 has a lot of the basic design done. I need to figure out what to work on next though. My goal atm is to get it to the state of a usable alpha that I could share with testers. There's just so many bits that need polishing for that, I don't know where to start.

Z-Net I hasent seen much worked recently. I need to fix bugs, and diagnosing those bugs has been a slow process. I've made progress with my understanding of some, but only to the point of knowing more about what the cause of a bug isn't. Having to wait like this sucks. I'd like to be more actively solving the issues. I even intended for v1.2 to be out of beta by now, but I can't release it as such.

To attempt to help speed this process up, I've decided go to back to school as it were with my knowledge of C++. Learning informally like I did, I skipped over or missed several aspects of C++, so I never learned to do things, or not do things. I've realized that my understanding of how to write bug free code could be better, as well as adding error handling in a more instinctual way. I've read a bit, and adopted some of what I've learned into ZN3. Hopefully soon I can start applying it to ZNI, and maybe solve these issues.

On the topic of ZNI, I suppose I should announce something. When I was originally adding/designing the code for Regions, I intended to have a users region listed in the game room list with a flag icon. The code added fine, but I noticed a issue with it that kept me from adding it officially. Even the current released ZNI supports flag icons, you would just have to know how to enable them. Anyway, I scraped the feature due to a ugly display bug. But I recently realized that I accidentally fixed that bug when upgrading ZNI to use a newer version of comctrl.dll. When I resume work on fixing ZNI's bugs, I'll be resuming work on that feature and try and finalize it.

News: Thoughts About Z-Net I

Thursday, June 06, 2013

It seems my last post was premature about my comments relating to Z-Net I. It's starting to seem like the surge in population was just a fluke, and just due to a direct result of releasing a new version. I didn't think much of it the first day that I recently observed a population decline. I figured it could still be an anomaly the second day. And the couple days after that I've accepted the truth. Despite all my efforts. The countless hours of work theses past months on refining and adding to Z-Net I to make it the best possible program it can be, it's all been a waste of time and effort.

It seems no matter what I do, the community is always going to be self destructive. In the past I might blame myself for this. I'd blame the fact that there are currently some bugs that have gone unfixed due to their complexity. But that's not it. At this point, if Z-Net I is a failure, it's purely on the users. To backup this claim, here's a list of how the Z-Net I users hurt the success of this program, and in turn hurt themselves.
  • Leaving Z-Net I to quickly after joining.
  • Not advertizing Z-Net I to other websites.
  • Incorrectly representing Z-Net I to other users.
  • Not posting reports about bugs.
  • Not participating in conversations in the Chat Lobby.
  • Unwillingness to host game rooms.
  • Unwillingness to play different games. (crucial with a low population)

These all play major roles in holding Z-Net I back. These are all out of my hands. You may not view them as a serious issue and think I'm exaggerating things. But you would be wrong. You may think it's my job to tackle these problem, but it's not. Still, despite that I have made efforts to do so wherever/whenever I could. But this is a community dependent/driven program. At its most fundamental level, 1 user needs another user to play with, meaning 1 user is dependent on another. It makes it sound like some sort of scheme, but essentially each users needs to bring in other users to the community. You can't just expect to reap the benefits of the community, but fail to contribute to it in the slightest. At least not at this point when the population is still small.

New users come from 1 of 2 ways. Randomly stumbling upon Z-Net I through search engine queries or web pages/posts. Or from a friend telling another friend. The latter helps the community very little, as often that friend ends up only playing with the other friend, neither talk on the forums/lobby, and only really contribute the most bare minimum to the community (temporarily boosting the user count). The former is where Z-Net I needs help the most, and it contributes the most to Z-Net I's health. Again, you may think that's my job. But with a community driven program, it isn't. Though I still have invested a hefty amount of effort into it anyway. In fact, lets look at what I've done to help boost the communities/populations health.
  • Create Z-Net I to help former zbattle users have a place to play again.
  • Design and manage website.
  • Design and manage forum.
  • Add ballontip guide for new users.
  • Spent countless time on solving the connection issues present in v1.1 and before.
  • Constantly refine the website for higher rankings on search engines.
  • Submit the existence of Z-Net I to many emulation news sites.
  • Paid money out of my pocket so the Z-Net website could have a stable URL.
  • Combed the internet for links to zbattle or dead Z-Net links, and contacted whoever I could to get them changed.
  • Do 100% of the moderation of Z-Net I all by myself.
  • Designed 1 of the new user ballontips to target and remind users to not leave to quickly.
  • Added and refined the Chat Lobby feature.
  • Added several features that help in some way or another, like Regions, Ignore lists, room presets.
  • Made strides, even though ignored, to appeal to/partner with other communities.
  • Recently purged 90% of the ban list, giving past trouble makers another chance.
  • Spent countless hours on v1.2, after declaring before that I was done with ZNI.
  • Listened directly to user requests and made additions to the program.

Of course a lot of this it's natural for me to do as the developer of the program. But that doesn't diminish the amount of work and effort at all. But so you understand my position an how I feel, look over that list and tell ask yourself, if you were me would you feel all that time and effort spent on that would be worth it for the Z-Net I population and community to not grow beyond what you currently see when you log in? All that work these past several months, just to see the Z-Net I population bounce back to were its been? If you don't answer "No", you're lying to yourself.

All my recent work was done in hopes of seeing the the population grow, and community thrive. Not stay the same. So here I am at this point where I'm now thinking of quitting the ZNI project again. What I'm thinking of is, if I don't see the user count hit 30 due to almost all unique users by some date, then I'm done. I might even shut the program down again. It just doesn't make sense to leave it going for user base of which %90 contribute to its own destruction. Or of which the majority feel/act like they're entitled to everything, or are just downright ungrateful.

What would this mean for Z-Net 3 and Z-Band?  I don't know. The community failure of ZNI could certainly represent the same potential for those projects as well. I enjoy programming, but after I finish a release I need to see a reasonible amount of user acceptence for the project, or else all that effort seems wasted. I don't want to deal with this type of situation again.

I'm not ready to declare this 30 users by the end of this month or next month as my official stance just yet. But I would certainly like see the Z-Net I community take it seriously and start working to fix the problems they're creating and meet or exceed this goal.

News: More on Z-Net I v1.2 Beta and Z-Band

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Last Thursday I released the ZNI v1.2 Beta more publicly. Since then, almost everyone is using it now instead of v1.1. It's nice to see that the ZNI population is growing a bit now with it. I can't label any one thing as the cause for the growth, but I have been thinking about the population health with everything I do, and it's nice to see something come of all my efforts.

Sadly, after I released v1.2, I soon realized there were some bugs with the protocol signature code. It's uncommon, but sometimes the protocol messages are signed incorrectly or at least unexpectedly. Other times the signatures remain used past when they should no longer be valid. The latter seems to be just a symptom though, of another bug. A bug that causes users to ping out. This I eventually realized is the bug I need to focus on. But sadly, to many users don't speak English, and/or aren't ready/willing to report the bug in any way so I can have an idea why they pinged out.

Despite that, I have learned about some bugs that cause users to ping out. 2 at least. One I've fixed, the other is unknown. I just know it has happened to another user a few times, and to me once. Normally if a bug happens to me it would lead to me being able to fix it soon afterwards. But I have no clue what happened. I traced things down as best as I could, but nothing stood out as broken, and little info was attained to possibly be able to repeat it.

So the past couple days I've been tackling whatever else that I can while I consider how to proceed forward to resolve these 2 major issues on my list.

One thing I've been working on again is Z-Band. Since my recent core revamp I've been considering what I need to work on next. And several things came up on my list. One is the need to ensure users aren't playing against the computer to raise their score/lower their opponents. So I needed to ensure that the players are in fact playing the versus modes. In addition to that, many versus games have at least 1 form of a handicap setting. It's not fair for the ability of one player to have an advantage like that in such ranked/tourny games. And also, some games have a setting for the game mode that effects the rules of the match. In particular Tetris Attack has a option to change the need for 2 wins to win a match to 1 win. Whether I limit that, or adjust Z-Band, I need to account for it.

I added a mode check, to only check wins if the mode is correct. I added code to freeze handicap settings. And for the rules setting, I added support (at least for Tetris Attack) to either lock the setting, or adjust to it.

Another thing I've been wanting to tackle is the ability for users to change their player number in ZSNES. If for say player 1 became player 2, and player 2 became player 1, Z-Band would begin attributing scores to the wrong people. What I've done for now is lock out player swapping. Later I may just have Z-Band adjust accordingly.

There's still some more issues to work out, but this brings Z-Band even closers to public usability. I almost feel like I could have people using this now.... if I had a quality server to go with it at least.

I still very much enjoy working on this project. It always feels like it has potential to be very big, and users who hear about it are always very positive about it and hopeful to see it released. I really just hope I can get it released before people don't care, or someone doesn't do a poor job of ripping it off like I've seen before. As always though, the server is the real limiter. If I had someone working on the server, I'd be much more willing to focus on the remaining client issues and try to get this project out there. Maybe at some point the client code will be basically done, and all I'd have to work on is the server, making me somewhat more willing to work on it myself. But even if so, I wouldn't have the same drive/enthusiasm to do so as I do the client code.

Anyway, the Z-Band project is getting even closer to release worthy now. In fact, soon I may start sending it to a few testers and get some of my first real intended use of the program. I think I've tested it with another user as intended all of once since it was merged with ZNI last year. I wouldn't doubt that I tested it as such only once in 2008 either. It's certainly more ready now then ever!

News: Z-Net v1.2 Beta and Z-Band

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

As mentioned previously, I released the ZNI v1.2 Beta on IRC. Ever since then I've been waiting for bugs to pile up before I try fixing any of them. This left me with some time to fill. I want to remain interested in working on the project, but doing so is hard when theres nothing to do. So I decided to get a jump start on my Z-Band revamp early. I'll discuss this later.

While I was working on Z-Band, circumstance brought up the topic of security for ZNI again. People abusing/looking for holes in ZNIs protocol hasn't been a problem yet, even now. But I don't want it to ever be. I've tried and failed to learn about implimenting encryption for the protocol messages 2 times before. The problem seemed to be that when encrypting messages, sometimes the characters for "\r", "\n", and "\0" would come up and pose problems. It seems to me that other people don't have these issues and can send those characters over IRC just fine. I don't know how though. Encryption among many things, I'm just not comfortable with, to the point of not even beginning to know how to solve an issue like that. While I have since discarded it, growing fed up with that issue halting progress, I decided to use a character substitution method for those characters. It wasn't a pretty work around, but it did work. I was finally able to move forward.

I soon realized though that encrypting the protocol messages alone wouldn't solve all my security concerns. I guess this is something I couldn't realized until I got to this point. After a lot of thinking I begin to realize what it is I truly wanted to protect. It's not the contents of the messages. It's the validity of the messages, and that's it. What I mean is, it doesn't matter that people know you selected a certain game or whatever if they can see the protocol messages. All I'm concerned with is for people not using ZNI to not be able to generate their own protocol messages, and potentially disrupt legitimate users. My original idea was that I had to hide the protocol messages to conceal their format to accomplish this goal. But I don't.

After more thinking I realized I needed a signature style setup instead. A signature setup being a encrypted code that marks the message as being a valid ZNI message. It took a bit of thinking with my newb brain when it comes to this stuff, but I figured out how I want to do the signature. I won't go into any details about it, but I had to go through several revisions before I felt it was good enough for my goals.

Any security measures I'd take wouldn't be perfect. Even if I wasn't a newb to all of this stuff. But I'm confident enough that my work is good enough for now. Average users won't be able to disrupt things by faking protocol messages. Real hackers, well, who knows. They're slowed down at the least.

I'll need to test things a little more, privately, before releasing this next Beta. I hope it goes well though.

Onto Z-Band. As I mentioned, I decided to work on Z-Band more while I was waiting for ZNI bug reports to pile up. Over the years I've revised the code many times as my skill has grown. But I've never been all that close to 100% happy with it. Z-Band doesn't support every game or version of ZSNES. I have to add such support manually. And with the code the way it was, doing so was a chore as well as messy. I've been wanting to revamp the code to a more generalized core function that requires minimal code additions to add new support. It's kind of difficult to generalize code when different games/emus require different code, but I've mostly done it! Again I won't go into details about the code itself. But after accomplishing that, I decided to test how easy it was to add new games.

Since the latest revamp, I only really had Super Mario Kart working. I worked on other games years ago, like SF2, GWED, and Tetris Attack (I thought I worked on Bust-a-Move but I remembered wrong), but those games weren't working with the new code. After a bit of work I added support to SF2 to the new generalized function. Then support for GWED to it as well. Tetris Attack however was the first game I could easily add due to the work on supporting GWED. It really was quite easy.

Now at 4 supported games, I wanted to see how well this generalized code revamp would work with completely brand new games. So I went at it, and easily added support for 4 more games, each taking maybe 15-30m, if even that long! I won't mention the 4 new games though. I'll save some news for later! =) And I just may not want to support them for some as of yet unknown reason.

Now with 8 games supported, I'm quite happy with the state of Z-Band's client side code for now. Progress with the client side code further puts a need on the server code needing advancment. I still don't feel like working on it though. I really want to leave this project for someone else. But doing that creates a roadblock in ever seeing this released.

So I decided to try an old idea I had for the Z-Band server. A IRC bot. It's not pretty, but it can do something. I already had the code posting results to the channel, for testing. It wasn't much to have this pointing to a IRC bot instead. A IRC bot only needs to confirm and log match results really. I'm quite comfortable with mIRC scripting, so its easy to create a basic bot with it for this. As is, this would just be used for tourneys, and require an official. The official would just review the log and announce round winners and pairings himself. I'm not to happy with this setup. Requiring to much manual attention and adjustment to me kind of seems to defeat the purpose of Z-Band.

As things are with Z-Band now, I'll have think about things more, and make things less manual, one step at a time. But the more I do, the more I'm working on some sort of server code, which I don't like. mIRC scripting or not. I want to stick with client code and that's it.

I don't like the idea of just supporting tourneys though. Z-Band was thought of for the purpose of rankings. I don't like the idea of handling rankings with a IRC bot though. Tourneys are fine, as the IRC bot no longer needs to be there afterwards. But rankings require the bot to be there almost 24/7. And is no different then the issue of requiring a central server, which the ZNI code attempts to resolve. While I am connected almost all of the time, I don't want it to be required for me to always be so in order Z-Band or ZNI to function. For now though, I might have to. Just to see the project move forward. And just require for people to understand that rankings would only change if my bot is present, it may be offline randomly, and they will just have to live with it.

What things I decide on to move forward, I have no idea. Atm I just know I'd prefer to have a php server, but I don't want to maintain it. A IRC bot would be easier for me, but I'd rather not maintain it either. And I know I need a server, period. For the ZNI website/forums, Z-Band php server, a IRC bot, or whatever.

As exhausting as these Z-Band dilemmas are, I'm still happy with the progress with the client code! =)

News: Z-Net v1.2 Beta, and Other Projects

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Yesterday I released the first draft of the Z-Net I v1.2 Beta. I'm so happy it's finally at this point! It's been a long 3 months of work, and every time I thought I was finished, after a break for a few days I'd suddenly come back with more to do. It eventually seemed like this would go on forever and I'd never feel I was truly done. lol.

Looking back, it's funny how I started this next version working on purely the most minor of things. Things I felt wouldn't take much coding, time, or that weren't that big of a difference. I soon found that after my work on my IRC client and ZN3, as messy as the ZNI code was/is it was more comfortable to work with. This was due to it being more familiar and refined already, requiring less hassle to do anything with in part to the familiarity and thanks to my increased skill gained form my IRC client and ZN3.

At this point, it's hard to say how much I've gained this path few months. It's probably more experience than skill. Few things really gave me any amount of challenge or required me to delve outside of my comfort zone. Those cases are when I learn the most. However, with what I've done I've certainly improved in some areas as the most difficult to work with areas of the code from last year, are now a lot less daunting and much easier to understand. In fact, a lot of such code was completely rewritten and of course majorly improved. As things stand now, I don't think I any longer feel that some part of the code is the amount of headache I would have though it was a few months ago.

With my new outlook on the ZNI code, I still can't say what my interest in it will be for the future. I have no idea if this is going to be the last major update or not. I think I can say I'm much more willing to make small updates though to address issues. But it's very likely most of my effort will be going into other projects once ZNI is out of beta.

I still want to work on ZN3. And even with my most basic ideas for it, it will replace ZNI. I only stopped it because the work was so challenging for me, that it was draining my motivation. Well, that more beat me down until I got it to a point were I realized I wanted to completely scrap an idea I had already worked on a lot. It was then that I decided I needed to take a break from it.

Z-Band has been on my mind again like it often is. My work a few months ago on re-adding the Z-Band code to the Z-Net I code was a major step for that project in keeping it accessible. After 3 months of code changes to ZNI, a few days ago I tried to see if the code would still compile for Z-Band, and sure enough with few tweaks it does. As far as I can tell it still works, though atm I cant test it since I don't have the server code setup. Speaking of the server, as usual that's the real issue with that project. I don't want to work on the server code myself. I've really been wanting someone else to join the team and take the reigns on that. Sadly its seeming like that is never going to happen. So I'm realizing more and more all the time that I'm just going to have to push through as much as I can, and work on the server code myself to ever have any chance of the project seeing the light of day. But besides the server code, there's another issue with the server. The server itself. If I ever hope to have the project used publicly, free hosts won't cut it. The websites don't generate enough to pay for a real host, so even if the server code was refined well, I'm always going to have that fact in the way.

Looking forward, after ZNI v1.2 is out of beta, I think Z-Band is what I'll be working on again, for however long. I would like to refine some of the client code. Maybe add a new supported game, or something. I would really like to at least get it to a point were I can demo it, in a video, with select users, or maybe even a release. My thinking is that maybe getting the project out there more, in a more tangible way will help interest in it, maybe spark some server funding, or interest from a potential server dev.

Well, in closing I'll mention the Z-Net I v1.2 Beta again. It's semi public right now. I thought about doing a semi public beta like I did last year, requiring forum membership. But I figured I'd try something a little different. One of the big new features of this version of ZNI is the chat lobby. My hopes is that finally we will be able to start seeing a real community developing around group chatting. While not perfect sense, it makes sense to me that the release of this beta should focus around such a chat community and be released in the IRC channel. I guess my hope is that coming by the IRC chat room will hopefully help further jump start such a community ahead of the full version. I probably should make it a requirement to actually talk, as it's quite rude just to join, type the trigger, download the beta then leave without saying anything. Even more so when I actually catch such users on and say hello, just to be ignored. But such a requirement would be to limiting. It's going to be a delicate balance trying to get enough users who can/will actually help test it, but also limiting it from being used by to many people before its ready to handle them.

Check out my post on the Z-Net website if you want to know more about the beta, how to get it, and help.

Z-Net I v1.2 Beta Info

News: Z-Net I Status and Other Stuff

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

It's been almost 2 months since I've updated this blog. I'm still active on my hobby projects, mainly Z-Net I. Normally I'd have posted progress updates for it here. But I decided that I'd post them on the Z-Net I forums instead to help draw traffic and discussion. Well, that didn't really work out to well, but oh well, I tried.

Since my last news update, it seems I dived more into Z-Net I than I planned. Instead of just adding small things and tweaks, I've gone and changed a whole lot! Z-Net I v1.2 is going to be a big upgrade over v1.1 and zbattle!

I'm not finished with it yet, but I'm not likely to add anything more other than tweaks and fixes. I've begone personally beta testing it more recently and hope to ramp that up as much as I can to iron out as many issues as I can. It's become a release rivaling the scope of the first release, and is now needing about the same quality of testing or more. There's just to damn many changes!

I'm not going to list everything, but here are some of the bigger changes:

Much more modern GUI, consisting of a toolbar, cleaner look, etc.
New window for managing the feature previously named the "Black and White Lists".
Much faster speeds for the Download feature. (Testing shows at least up to 8x faster so far.)
Chat Lobby window. (When turned on by a Moderator.)
Region column and setting.
In client moderation tools. (Means moderation is less of a pain, so more moderators are likely to stick with the job, and actually do it at all.)
In GUI option for toggling UDP/TCP.
Info bubbles for guiding new users through the setup and basic use of Z-Net I.
Chat improvements, like colors, timestamps, logging, copy/pasting, URL hotlinks, etc.
Option presets for game room titles. (For when 1 game isn't enough.)
There's much more in this update, mostly consisting of fixes/tweaks. It should prove to be a much liked improvement over zbattle that people have been waiting years for, or that new users will find much more comfortable. I've gone to great length to keep the project as close to as simple as possible to use as zbattle was. And possibly make it even simpler when I can.

In other news. I'm posting today because its my bday, and normally I'd like to release something, in some form or another. But I just don't have anything ready. Every time I think I'm done with the next ZNI update, I take a break for a few days, then come up with tons more I feel I need to add. ZN3 has been shelved since work resumed on ZNI. The website issues have kept me from getting interested in improving them. I have at least worked hard on improving hits to the Z-Net site and its ranking in search engines. The Z-Net site has almost caught up to this blog now in total hits!

I've recently begone learning 3D modeling again. So far I'm learning better then before, and its actually getting fun. So I hope I can do something with that soon that's worth releasing in some form. Like desktop backgrounds, character or armor models for some game like Skyrim, attractive graphics for these website, or something else entirety.

What else....

I'm moving my main to a different server on WoW next week. Big deal to me. Wow has gotten pretty boring lately. I want to raid, but my server is dead. Recruitment is a pain in the ass, and when you actually do get people in your raid, they usually suck. I'm moving from Baelgun to Hyjal. Hyjal is the #2 PvE Horde dominated server. The number 1 was a different time zone and is overpopulated to the point were it can get server ques. The auction house has cheaper and more stable prices, and trade/general chat is MUCH more active. I'm moving with my guild, and we hope to do recruiting once there.

Thats all for now!

Nerd Time: Goku vs. Superman

Monday, March 11, 2013

I came across a video today about this very topic. Yes, that's right. Hide from any women you ever may want to have sex with in the future. It's time to talk about a classic type of nerd debate!

As a fan, this type of crossover battle has crossed my mind once or twice. Not to the point of coming to any sort of conclusion on who would win or even discussing it, but it did sound cool and interesting. Well, thanks to some guys at ScrewAttack we can see how this battle might play out! Without spoiling the outcome, I can assure you that over the course of the video you will realize that thorough thought and analysis went into this. So it's worth watching based on that, or purely for the entertainment value.

And for fans of DBZ Abridged, there's some TeamFourStar cameo voices in this!

Without further ado, here's the video.

Click read more to read my thoughts on the fight and outcome, and comment yourself.

News: What I've Been Up To

Friday, February 08, 2013

If you've read my blog in the past, you can tell the URL is different now. Sadly I lost access to the old URL, so you probably had to dig up the new one manually. As annoying as this change over has been, the good side is I now have a good, stable, and REAL URL! So from this point on people shouldn't ever have to bookmark anything new for my blog or the Z-Net site.

This may not seem like to big of a deal to some, but it is to me. It's like I've finally taken a step up with my websites, and further legitimized my projects.

Riding this new high, I've done some work on Z-Net I again. Mostly just adding new, but small features. It's nice to be working on a project again thats done to the point that ZNI is, because I can see and use the results of that work better. The Z-Net 3 project is so far away from anything even shareable for alpha testing that theres just little enjoyment out of running it. While the code quality in ZN3 is much more superior, ZNI is a better program at this point. I won't lie, it's ratty code has been a pain to work with after improving my skills since last year, but at least I'm familiar with the code to the point were I don't get stuck or slowed down because I can't figure out how to do something.

Well, after I worked on a few features, and improved some of the code, something dawned on me. Last year before I officially started working on ZNI, when I was waiting on the poll results, I was working on my Z-Band code. It was integrated into the ZNI client at the time, and once I officially stared work on ZNI I backed up the scraps of Z-Band code, and disabled/removed it all. Because of that, I've never tinkered with it since then, and showing anyone of a demo of my work wouldn't be easy. Well, what dawned on me was that I could try integrating the code into ZNI in a way that I could easily have all the Z-Band code disabled/not compiled when I want it, leaving ZNI builds functioning normally. But when I wanted to test or refine the Z-Band code, I could easily enable it all and compile it.

So after a bit of work, I got the Z-Band code running again, and in the most modern version of the ZNI source! From there I've had to make some tweaks after figuring out the state I left the code in, just to get it working properly again. Then I realized it wasn't the most convenient setup to use, because I just made it as a proof of concept. So I've made some changes to make it simpler to understand and use. Before both the client and host had to click a register button at some point before the host presses start. That never felt right, so I've now made check boxes labeled "Play Registered Match". When those are checked, then the host presses the start button, the normal ZSNES launch process will get interrupted while the users get their match registration automatically submitted to the server. Once the match is confirmed with the server, the ZSNES launch process will resume. While technically this requires the same amount of interaction from the users, it just feels easier, and much more proper.

I still need to add a password entry field somewhere (it links up with your account, so a password is needed or else people could easily tank your ratings or otherwise impersonate you in tournaments). Also status messages of the registration process could use some work. In some cases it's to spammy, and other cases it's just not informative enough.

Once I tweak those last little bits I'll finish up some work on the normal ZNI code where I've been integrating some small features I've seen requested. I may also try my hand at posting a video of Z-Band in action, since I've never posted a video before that I've created, and I've realized before that Z-Band can't properly be showcased in pics.

News: New Website for Z-Net

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I got around to making a new blog to replace the lost Z-Net website. Just as I said in my last post, I didn't put much time into it. At the moment it's mostly just a copy of the theme and layout I designed for my personal blog. I changed the background and dusted off an old header title banner though, to make it stand out as much as I can.

I would like to restore the image slide show or screenshots at some point. That and the forums are all that's really lost from the old site. Doing so may require more effort then other stuff though, so it will take some time for me to decide on what I'll do.

A link to the new site is back on the left. The old urls at this time, mostly work. The "" version of the url works, but "" is still pointing here despite me changing it not to, and giving it some time. The oldest url, "" points there properly too.

So, check things out! Hopefully this all works out to be a positive thing like I think it might be! =)

News: Z-Net Homepage

Monday, January 14, 2013

I'm declaring the Z-Net website officially gone for the foreseeable future. I'm sick of bad free webhosts, as if its not one thing its another causing them to be horrible. I do want a website for the Z-Net projects, especially Z-Net 3. But I'll just have to wait for that.

For now, as some can probably tell, I've reverted my personal blog back to being the home of the Z-Net I project. There's a new simple page available for it in the menu on the left, and the and urls once again point here.

In time I may make a blog specifically dedicated to Z-Net that will remain as the homepage until I can get a good web host to bring back a real website and forums. But if I do it won't be designed very well since I don't want to put much of my time on it.

For now, all that's really lost is the forums. But those weren't used much anyway.

News: Z-Net Website Down

Friday, January 11, 2013

I know about the Z-Net website being offline. This is just further evidence that I badly need a new server. My account with the host got suspended due to false assumptions, and I'm working to get it reactivated. This is sadly what you have to deal with when using free webhosts, something which I'm stuck with until the site and this blog can start generating enough ad revenue to pay for a real one.

For now, here's a link to the backup mirror for the Z-Net I v1.1 download.

Z-Net I v1.1 Download

EDIT: Getting the website back up isn't going well. Responces from the support staff are slow, and when they come, so far are idiotic. So until things are resolved I've changed the and urls to now point o this blog.

Things may take time before the changes are applied completely.

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

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Things really have been going slow. Thanks to the horribly designed recent WoW expansion, the free time that WoW and my coding projects share has mostly been taken up by WoW. It it hasn't been until recently that I've had only little to do on WoW each day so that I could have more time to code. However, I did still find time here and there, but didn't get much done.

Since my last progress update, I tried working on some menubar stuff and hit some roadblocks. That got me sick of custom GUI work altogether for the moment, so I decided to work on building the basic window setup for the client with the goal of being able to plop in my IRC code as soon as possible. I've found that even when I intend to slow my development down, I still need to see results at a better rate then I have been, or else I have a hard time getting interested in working on things. So getting the client running as a crappy IRC client feels more like progress than several development projects I use to work on the different aspects of the final project.

As the project sits right now, it vaguely resembles my basic ideas for the final project. I do now have my IRC code plopped in, and outputting basic RAW IRC messages to a window. Soon I need to finish working on getting the RAW messages properly parsed, and resulting client generated messages outputted to windows instead. Then I need to start setting up the frame work for handling multiple IRC channel windows. If I didn't post it on the Z-Net 3 forum already, unlike Z-Net I, and more like Z-Net 2, I plan to have chat rooms available in ZN3. Not just one, but several. Ideally 1 for each Emu and common language.

Once that's done, I'll start working on the nick name list stuff for the rooms. Then finally it will feel like a project to me, and not just a mish-mash of code. My goal is now to get it into sharable alpha stages asap, even if it looks like crap. If it does something, I'm happy. Such a state for the project would allow me to more freely work on different areas of the project as I lose interest in other areas, unlike right now where I feel a bit more limited. I'll talk about more later, after I'm working on it, because I could theorize what things I'll do after what, all day.

Of note, seeing the way ZNI has gone since 1.1, I've found myself more willing to work on it. I haven't worked on it yet since then, I just realized I'm more willing now. ZN3 is still a priority though. If I do work on it, I would do so only because I'm in need of doing something that moves faster then the coding work on ZN3. What I've been considering doing if I do work on it, is likely some GUI additions/tweaks. Namely setting the recently revealed TCP option as switchable in the host window, moving the disable download option to the host window, and possibly adding a window for setting up the white/black lists. No promises on anything though. If I do make a update, none of those could be added, or perhaps some of those and something else.