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Journal of Raduprv

Moved my journal

Posted by , 28 March 2006 - - - - - - · 330 views

In the light of the recent events with gamedev.net, I've decided to move my journal to blogger.com
You can find it at http://eternal-lands.blogspot.com
This will be the last entry in this journal.

Playing with a Pocket PC

Posted by , 19 March 2006 - - - - - - · 204 views

While waiting for the EL test server to be tested properly, I was toying with developing for my PocketPC devices.
The tools are free, from Microsoft, but they are the worst programs ever.
For example, MS didn't really bother to implement some libraries in the emulated Pocket PC, so I had to download some 3rd party libs that had no documentation whatsoever, so it was a lot of guesswork involved.

Basically, I had to copy a DLL file in the root of the emulated Pocket Pc device.
That's not a big deal, however, the moron who wrote that emulator (because I can not call him anything but a moron) did not think it would be nice to actually be able to SAVE the files on that emulator. So what happens is, when it crashes (which happens quite often) restarting it will clear all it's memory, so you'll have to reinstall all the files again...

Now, in all fairness, it does have an option to save the current state. Only that using that option somehow prevents the IDE from connecting to the emulator...

No wonder there are not so many programs for an otherwise great platform.

Yesterday I've spent a few hours trying to get SDL to work on it. I couldn't, there was virtually no documentation, no nothing.
So I just gave up and decided to use GAPI, which is some low level, rudimentary API for accessing the screen buffer. There were some other libraries out there, but they were C++, and I was looking for a C library.

On a positive note, I've been able to compile a GAPI sample and get it running on the emulator, and on an actual device.
The problem with the actual device is that, if I keep it docked, it crashes my computer (the whole Windows freezes).
So unless I want to restart my computer every few minutes, I have to use that idiotic emulator that is a huge time sink, and a source of terrible frustration...

Some EL news

Posted by , 14 March 2006 - - - - - - · 207 views

For the past 2 weeks, I worked at a new feature, called "hyperspace bags".
The hyperspace bags are basically item containers (up to 10 different items, unlimited quantities for each item).
They are permanent, and will last forever, hidden in the hyperspace, until someone retrives them using a special item.
Their purpose is to hide some stuff, like some potions, ore, etc. for later use.
They are not really safe, because someone can get your bag if he or she knows where it is. So the players are encouraged not to put really valuble stuff in there.
They are also very useful for contests, we can put some prize in a hyperspace bag, then give the players clues about the location.

So far, we are testing this feature on the test server, I want to make sure it works right before putting it on the main server. We don't want exploits or anything.

Some hardware update.

Posted by , 11 March 2006 - - - - - - · 236 views

A few days ago I've ordered from tigerdirect.com the final items for my totally quiet PC.

They were a passive big ass, 45 USD heatsink, and a 450W PSU that had a 12CM fan. I've also ordered a nice refurbished wireless keyboard and [air] mouse.

Everything was OK except that the idiots from Tigerdirect shipped me the WRONG PSU. It is a 450W PSU, by the same company, but it has to fucking loud 8CM fans, that you can hear allover the house.
And from talking with other people, Tigerdirect does that pretty often.
I could send it back and get the right PSU, but I'd have to pay for the shipping to them, and it's an extra hassle. I guess I will just open the PSU, remove one fan, and put some resistor on the other fan to lower it's speed.
Pretty annoying though.

Other than that, my otherwise quite PC runs very nicely, I've installed Mepis Linux on it and I can view movies on my HDTV, listen to music, etc. And it will server as a local EL test server as well.

Speaking of hardware, Friday I got my Torq 120/Eten m600 GSM phone/Pocket Pc.
It's a very impressive device, I am in love with it. It has a few minor software bugs, but other than that it's great. Using Skype on it is a much better experience than using it on a normal PDA. The sound is perfect, and the other person hears me better as well.


Posted by , 04 March 2006 - - - - - - · 370 views

In the last two weeks I worked at the merchant NPC, which is done now. The preliminary testing is also done, and I think they will be introduced on the main server in a week or so.

Other things we've worked at were more of behind the scenes stuff, such as increasing the players limit to 2K, the AI limit to 2K as well (so 4K entities in total), optimizing a few things here and there, a few new admin commands and ban related things, and switching to a asymetric ranging that I coded last year but wasn't used due to it being buggy.

Now I finished that code, and hopefully fixed all the bugs, although it does need some additional testing.
I am having some doubts on whether or not I should introduce the asymetric ranging in the next server update (which will be monday). I guess I will, and if there are problems I will switch back to a version that doesn't include that.

Last year I was working on some code that would allow the players to share their vision with other players in the same map, under some conditions.
Unfortunatelly, I had to remove that code altogether, because I realized it wasn't viable. Not only it might cause confusion but also consume a lot of bandwidth.
One idea I came up with is to give the players the option to make their IP public to their guild members, so that way they can have some sort of p2p network between the clients of the players in the same guild. This would allow them to share their vision client side only, without any server intervention.
But right now we do not have the resources to do that, it would take a lot of work, and currently we don't have any client programmer (all of them are either busy with their school or job, or just moved to other projects).

Finding new people to help us is pretty hard, a lot of them are very enthusiastic in the beginning, but when it comes to actually implementing anything they just lose all their motivation or something.

Sooner or later, we will have to actually hire programmers to work for us, and I have already started doing so. For example, one of the members of this forum is working at rewritting the sound part of the game, for 1K USD.

After that is done, I'll have to contract someone to do various special effects such as spells, missile animations, etc.

How to use a PocketPC with a broken screen

Posted by , 23 February 2006 - - - - - - · 766 views

Before I start, a short disclaimer:
I am not responsible for anything in case this goes wrong. Do it at your own risk, and use some common sense.
I've tried this on various Ipaq devices and it worked pretty well, but I have no idea if/how well it works on other devices.

What is needed:
1. A PocketPc PDA with a broken screen.
2. Optional: some screwdrivers to open it.
3. The software Pocket Controller (30 USD, but has a free 3 days free trial).
4. A PC with Windows (should work with 98, 2K, XP and more)

A quick search on eBay will reveal many PocketPC enabled devices with various flaws, most common being a broken screen.
Their price is pretty good, usually about one third or even less than a fully functional device. However, make sure that the PDA comes with the following things included: Battery and docking cradle. A power adapter would be nice as well, although you can usually buy them separately from eBay. If one of those items is missing, do a search and see how much would they cost to buy, and see if the whole deal (broken PDA+ missing items) sounds good to you.
One other hint is to actually contact the seller before you buy it, and ask if the PDA does turn on despite the broken screen. If it doesn't, don't buy it.

The good news is that there is a way to use those devices, for many things such as:
1. Playing internet radio stations.
2. Using it as a portable phone with Skype.
3. If it has a camera, you can use it in conjunction with your WiFi connection to monitor various areas in/around your house.
4. As a 100% working emulator for software development.
5. All kind of servers.
6. Possibly other uses such remote control of a device via IR and various other things that require some electronics experience.

The first step is getting such a device. The best source is eBay, you can find good deals just about anytime.
Next, after you have the device, analyze the screen, and see if the digitizer is broken. You can check that by taping the screen and seeing if it makes any noise.

Step 2 [optional]. If it is broken, you might consider opening the PDA and removing the screen altogether, it's going to save some battery power and about 20 grams. An advantage to doing this is being able to see inside the device, which some people find to be cool. Nevertheless, this is an optional step and removing the screen might cause further damage if you are not careful or do not have the right tools. Speaking of the right tools, you will most likely need some special screwdrivers. I recommend getting them from a store hardware store such as Sears, rather than buying them online. The advantage of buying them from a store is that you can take the PDA with you and see which screwdriver fits.

Software installation:
Download and install Microsoft ActiveSync (free, might even come with the PDA if a CD is included).

The next thing is downloading and installing the software Pocket Controller from www.soti.net . It is not free, but has a 3 days free trial. I guess that you could always write your own software to emulate it, but I personally think that it's well worth 30 USD.

Now it's time to connect your PDA to your PC. Make sure the battery is charged, connect the cradle to the PC, then place the PDA on the cradle, and turn it on.

ActiveSync will pop up and say that a new device was detected. Follow the instructions and set a name for it and do whatever else ActiveSync asks you to do. At the end of this, the ActiveSync icon in the system tray will be green.

Start Pocket Controller, go to Tools, "Install Device Software". It will say something about looking on the PDA's screen to see if there are additional steps required. Ignore this.

Go to File, Connect, select ActiveSync(USB) (or COM, whatever you are using).

Now, most likely what you will see on the screen is some welcome message asking you to calibrate the device. Oops, that program actually wants input from the hardware digitizer (touch screen) and you can't do it with the mouse on the Pocket Controller screen.
No problem, just go to Tools, Explore. Once you are there, there will be a device "Mobile Device". Click on it, then go to the folder: Windows/StartUp.
You will find a file called welcome.lnk or something similar. Delete it.
Again, go to Tools, Soft Reset Device.
The Pocket Controller connection will be lost. Wait for a while, then reconnect again.
Now you should see the standard PocketPC screen, and you can touch it with your mouse.

You can do a lot of stuff here, just use your imagination. Google for PocketPC software and you'll find a lot of free and not so free programs you can use.
Most of the PocketPC 2003 devices already come with Windows Mediaplayer 9 so you can use it to listen to mp3 files and various radio stations.
Skype has a PocketPC version which works very nicely, but it requires a relatively fast CPU (400 MHz or more) and a WiFi capable device. Fortunately many devices do have such a CPU, and built in WiFi is pretty standard now.
I use such a PDA with Skype and it's really cool to be able to go around the house talking on the phone for free (or for little money).

Good luck, and if you have questions or comments please post them here.

Radu Privantu

Yet another new record

Posted by , 19 February 2006 - - - - - - · 230 views

Today the new record of online players at teh same time was 645 human playes plus about 50 player run bots. So in total almost 700 clients connected to the server.
The previous record, from the last week, was 598 players.

The server can handle it pretty well, but we are looking for a new server.
I think I found some sweet machine that will cost around 2000 USD, and has a dual core AMD 64 4200, 2 GB RAM, and some fast HDDs. I have to buy it from France, and I have to see if I have to pay any VAT or not.

One other thing I might buy, by the end of the year, is one of those new Intel Macs, because that way I can compile EL to work for it so I can distribute a Mac installer too, maybe even an universal binary.

My current development time this week was focused on the guild merchant NPC. A lot of work done, but still a lot to go.
So far, I have about 1.5K lines written for it, but some lines are empty due to formating, so I would guess there are about 700 lines of actual code )excluding empty lines, {,} and else

Then I'll have to test it, and debug it.. it will be a lot of fun :)

Eternal Lands birthday

Posted by , 13 February 2006 - - - - - - · 304 views

Today EL is 3 years old (since the first public release).
Actually, it was released at about 12 AM, on 14th of February, from Romania.
Which is 13th of February in the central and western Europe, and US.
It seems that we managed to aquire about 200 online players (at the same time) every year, the new record, as of yesterday, being 598 human players and about 50 player owned bots.
Not bad at all :)

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