Friday, March 30, 2007

Summer Outlook

It looks like this might work out for coding, likely only having to worry about taking summer courses in June. Hopefully I will be able to finish up the core of Dynamic so the next big break I get I can start moving onto more advanced features.

The job outlook for the summer is looking good as well. Already have an interview planned with HP on Wednesday, and there are a few other organizations looking to interview me as well. Hopefully this will all go well and I can get a job within a decent drive so I don't waste too much time on the road. I guess we'll see what happens when we get there.

As for this weekend, its going to be a rough one, projects, homework for multiple classes, and an exam all due on or before Tuesday of next week. Time to buckle down for another fun one.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Nothing But Rants

It has been getting really hard to write about anything except things I'm not happy about lately. School has been stressful (I haven't even been back to classes yet and I'm already about at the edge of what I can take) and anything else that can find a way to not work does. I think my video card is on it's last legs, it has progressed to artifacts whenever I boot it up, apparently just displaying the scrolling linux boot up text is too much to handle. Fortunately it seems to resolve itself by the time it finishes booting, for now. I guess when I'm pinched for time its hard to write about new ideas and features that don't exist yet. I'm going to try and change that, but I am going to warn that the general trend seems to be that I won't have time to write every day like I did about a month ago. Anyway, back to the grind.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Week Coming to a Close

The week is starting to come to a close. I got some very cool things done (last night I got my vga driver working on the fpga, add that to my list of 'skillz'). Unfortunately, I also did a lot of homework, and unlike any other spring break I've ever had, I don't thing I have played a single computer game. I did manage to play and beat my brother bad three times in NBA 2K7 for the playstation 2, until playing that game this week I never realized hoe deep a basketball game can be... the last one I played was NBA Jam for the Sega Genesis, though that one was a classic.

This week has also been riddles with communications problems. We switched over to comcast's digital phone service, and since about Wednesday cannot receive phone calls from anyone local. As a result that dentist office which was supposed to call this week to notify me of any cancellations didn't, and so I missed a chance for an appointment yesterday. On top of that the school email system has been down since about 2pm yesterday, hope I don't miss any important emails as a result, I'm waiting for information on at least one summer job.

Overall It was a pretty good week, then its back to the grind on Monday.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Halfway Through Vacation...

...and I still don't feel like I've accomplished much. Thats needless to say that most students on spring break are living it up and having fun. Instead I'm struggling to finish homework and get ready for next week's fight to stay above the rough waters of hard engineering classes. I have a handful of big projects around the corner, and I know once I finish them then the next set of projects will take their place anyway. Either way I suppose I'll survive, whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger right?


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Don't Think Card Games are in my Future

As things are going now, it seems very unlikely that I will have the time to make an attempt to compete in the coding challenge. As nice as it would be to pick up $500 dollars and gain some notoriety in the community, I don't think I can spare the time. The money will come when I graduate. And graduation and job picks depend on my building my skills and getting my homework done. I think those 2 to 3 days designing and implementing a card game library could be better spent working on the next upcoming lab for Digital Design.... a VGA controller! The Keyboard to LCD lab is pretty much done, and I seriously doubt any of my classmates will pull it off, not as completely or as well as I have anyway ;). Call it an arrogant hunch.

I think ultimately I'm just going to make it my goal to get through this week sane. Sane and caught up on homework and projects. I have a brutal 2 months or so left until I'm done with the semester, and in that short amount of time I need to finish all these projects I have, especially finishing the sudoku assistant machine I'm supposed to develop as a final project for Digital Design.

If I can get through all that then maybe this summer if I can swing it I'll finish the core for Dynamic. Of course that was my goal last summer. We'll see if I can deliver this time, on top of my courses I need to take this summer, my prospective job, and all the other things that get stacked onto my todo list. If I have dynamic ready for a public release before 2010, someone owes me a million dollars. Sometimes I wonder if I had known about the workload sooner if I would have started working on the game when I did. Anyway you look at it, someday it will be done, it will be public, playable, and it will hopefully still be in time to break the mold.


Monday, March 19, 2007


Even being home it appears I've been too distracted to write any posts so far. I've spent quite a bit of time this weekend hacking away at my homework. I've been trying to work on my lab for Digital Design, which has been quite a project so far. The objective for the lab is to take input from a standard ps/2 keyboard like you have plugged into your computer, and to output what you type onto the LCD display that is on the board were using. So far getting the LCD to display what I want hasn't been too bad, but to accomplish it I've been using some vhdl for an entire microcontroller just to handle the display. On the keyboard end however, I've seen nothing but problems. There seem to be some timing issues involved, so instead of displaying just a single new character on the display it seems to rewrite all the locations with the same character. I have access to a little more information today, so hopefully I can figure this thing out.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Busy Before Vacation

It has been yet another busy week finishing up before vacation. I wanted to post several times this week, but sleep has taken priority just about every night. That, and I was also expecting to post about the new game production blog carnival yesterday, but it seems to have been postponed. I now have the rest of the day to go before vacation.

My plans for the next week have been mutating quite rapidly, until last night I had planned to take the weekend to go to Vermont to train, but due to the weather that will no longer be happening. I also think I may be attempting to compete in the MudMagic code challenge. The challenge is to write a framework for a publicly available mud codebase for playing card games. I was planning on spending a couple days on it if I get my homework done, and now with the two extra days it seems even more likely. Ultimately I may end up spending less time on dynamic, but the prize is nice, so it should be a fun little problem to solve.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Why Tomorrow's MMOs Continue to Suck

With all the new games being released, especially in the MMO genre, you would think that the genre would evolve. In reality so many of these games appear to be just as crappy as the ones that came before them. While there are exceptions out there, games almost always follow the same pattern as the ones that come before them.

Do you remember the first major real time strategy games? You had Command and Conquer and Warcraft leading the way. Starcraft came along, and so did Command & Conquer Red Alert. What changed here? Not much: settings, characters and visuals mostly. Of course there were small improvements to game play, but where was the innovation? Ultimately you can't really complain about these games, they were the innovators in their genre. But what about the countless clones that followed? Too many game developers develop in a fearful manner, afraid of what would happen if they tried something new. Flash forward to today and the genre is largely unchanged. Of course a few games started to try and break the mold and try new thing, Company of Heroes for example pushed things to the next level. But ultimately we are still stuck with the same games we played 10 years ago.

Lets flash to a new genre, how many Role Playing Games really broke the mold? Theres always a first, and a million clones to follow. This is great if your so in love with a specific game that you just want more of. But what about us who thirst for something new? Some players want to see innovative game play and not just the tried and tested. I could go on about the First Person Shooter genre too, but I will stop here.

Coming back to MMO games, they follow the same boring pattern. Unfortunately here however the mold hasn't changed in almost 30 years instead of 10 or 5. Yes I said 30. I wasn't even alive back then but I know BBS systems existed back then and players dialed in to play games. These games eventually evolved into multi user dungeons.

Heres how about 95 percent of these games work: You create a character, level up, communicate with friends, group up and run zones. You kill things, get exp, and level up. Some zones are meant for higher levels, and others for lower levels, and these same zones never change between each visit. In the larger games you have griefers, newbies, and just about every other category of player all playing in the same game. Sound familiar? With a few exceptions every MMO from Everquest to World of Warcraft follows this same model. To the extent that there were allegations that Everquest was modified from Diku MUD, the first mud out there.

Please someone do something new and different. I'm sick of seeing people run zones that don't change. I'm sick of seeing static worlds, essentially chatrooms instead of thriving worlds like we should see. And most of all I'm sick of the hype these games that are more of the same get. They haven't done anything spectacular for a while. So go ahead, pay 15 dollars a month for something you could have done for free since before 1990.

So go ahead, get in line behind all those other people... to kill the goblin king... in the goblin castle... again... for the second time today.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

I Want Your Feedback

I think ultimately players should have a chance to give back to the games they play. And even more so some of the best ideas and opinions are from the people that play the games, not the ones who design them. At the same time I think the game designers should have the ultimate say as to what does and doesn't make it into their games. For this reason I'm posting an email address for those that have opinions that they want to share directly with me on various ideas or features. Or if you just want to say hello, have questions, or are looking to join the team. I can't make promises but I will do my best to be helpful.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Game Design Documents

I was just browsing when I came across a presentation put together for the GDC2007 by Damion Schubert. He posted his power point slides discussing how to write good game design documents. I found them very informative, and in fact I'm thinking part of my time spent over spring break will be assigned to working on bringing my own game specification up to date. I haven't touched it in a while, and I think some of these tips and ideas would help make it better. Not to mention I have new game feature ideas I would like to write in.

Ultimately the main points made were that a good game design document is simple, doesn't over design, and shells out development stages. I would try to describe it more, but I think you should just go check it out.


Alexa Update

I mentioned alexa in an earlier post, and how the alexa rank was slowly improving. It still is. As of this morning The alexa rank for this page is 1,482,132, up from 6,352,160 when it was first ranked. I'm not absolutely sure, but I have a feeling that at this rate I could at least begin to approach the top 100,000 if this trend continues. I'm pretty sure it is all a result of using the SearchStatus toolbar for firefox. In other related news FeedBurner subscriptions, and Technorati rank are up, and Blogtopsites rank is down.

I'm going to make an attempt to try and write posts every day again. Hopefully next week won't be as crazy as the last few were. A lot of the times I would have posted this week it was a contest of sleep versus posting, and for the student sometimes sleep is just more important.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Classes Keeping Me Busy

Its been a few days since my last post so I think its worth just posting for the sake of posting. I'm really starting to think development might be at a standstill for a while, but then again I'm way ahead on homework for this week so maybe the end of the week will be good. Last weekend I had a big group project for linear systems to do, and ultimately I spent an extra few hours in the lab fixing some moron's mistakes. Then the past few days I had to put in an extra few hours to finish a Digital Design lab. It works now though, so ultimately it was worth it.

I'm still finding myself considering this whole masters thing. I'm leaning toward it, but part of me just wants to get out of here and start developing dynamic more quickly, and make money. I might end up with more free time as grad student however, if only because I will only have 9 credits per semester tops. I guess we'll see where I end up with that.

I'm planning on staying at school this weekend, so hopefully I will have some improvements to dynamic to post here by the end of the weekend.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Layered Armor

A while ago on mudconnector I noticed a thread discussing a layered armor system that Kavir uses in his GodWars II mud. While I haven't played any of the GodWars muds, based on what I've read GodWars II seems like a decent game, and Kavir seems like hes a decent coder and designer as well. This system basically entails being able to lair armor. For example you might wear an undershirt which covers your arms and body. You could then wear some padded leather armor over this on your body, and armored sleeves over your arms because these items aren't worn on the same layer. I think this is an interesting idea, especially when paired with localized damage and hit zones. I believe it adds to the realism, and even more so expands the strategic offerings available. This lets a player decide which parts are more important to protect for example, or let them decide against heavily armored and slow, or lightly armored and more agile.

I've basically added this concept to my specification changes to do list. It also adds in a whole lot of expanded realism for my game concept.... for example if a player was to wear some shiny metal armor in the rain it might rust. But what if you could throw a rain poncho or robe of some sort over it?

I'm sort of thinking of this stuff as I go along, but it basically moves onto another idea. Each item, say a shirt for example, should have a size. The size of an item that a player can wear is limited both by the body type size, and the size of the outermost item worn. A large bodied character for example would only be able to wear larger items. Some items might require a certain closeness in size to be worn, or at least worn effectively. This definitely expands whats on my mind for items, this should be a whole lot of fun when I get there. I'll need to reference this post in my development notes so I can come back when I update my spec. :P

Ultimately this ties into my belief that games should have realism, at least within the 'universe' of the game (to use a probability term... damn random signals and noise). Adding to the ambience and strategy required improves the game, and a better game is always better.


Subscribe for Email Updates

We'll I have a free moment, and I found another FeedBurner trick. On the publicize page you can select an option on the left sidebar called email subscriptions. This allows users to subscribe to your feed and get updates via email when you update your blog. This feature supposedly only will give you the same text as the feed provides (meaning you can limit the number of characters in the message using the Summary Burner. If you frequent the blog and would rather not keep checking it needlessly, you can subscribe on our sidebar here, or:

Subscribe to Dynamic Mud News by Email

I really wish I knew about FeedBurner sooner, its basically exactly what I wanted a while ago but never had, I would definitely recommend it.


Friday, March 02, 2007


There are a few reasons I haven't posted since Tuesday night. Wednesday the Internet went out around 5 or 6pm, and stayed out until sometime the next morning. This didn't matter much because I was up until about 2 am finishing up my linear systems homework due the next day. Last night I was up until about 1 am working on digital design homework, and for the sake of survival I decided it would be a lot better to get some sleep then start doing stuff like writing posts.

I think this might be some advice to people who are trying to decide between Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. Doing both at once has shown me that basically the Electricals have a much higher homework load for the most part. I'm still not really sure why Computer Engineers have the higher salaries, I guess it might be because less people have a knack for that kind of stuff. Either way, a dual major is a lot of work.

As a result I haven't coded nearly recent enough, its starting to get depressing. Hopefully after this weekend I'll be back caught up and can switch it around and start making some progress again.