The server software I wrote at EA had a really nice feature: it would display an XML file of its status if you made an HTTP GET request to a specific port on the server. This is handy because it can be used by server-farm monitoring tools or for things as simple as a server up/down indicator. I wanted a server up/down indicator for the theimperialrealm.com
site as well as on the game's login screen.
Adding an HTTP server to the game server's front door was easy, a few lines to parse a new command line parameter for the port number, four lines to add the HTTP server and about 20 lines to output the game status as XML. Easy peasy.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?><server><status>up</status></server>
Now I needed to get that status to display in the HTML5 news page that displays on the game's login screen. My whole game UI is built on AJAX and XML, so I figured it would be pretty easy to use the same tools to add a simple up/down indicator. Wrong!
I've been using this for a while, but especially this week so I thought I'd share: it's a class-based state machine. State machines are usually big and messy and awful spaghetti code. Making states class-based makes a state machine cleaner and much easier to follow.
Here's the base classes for the state machine.
When I started developing The Imperial Realm :: Miranda
, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) were big and fancy and expensive and only used by giant multinationals so I never imagined I'd be able to afford to use one.
With me posting more and more big screenshots on my websites like this one:
[Random screenshot of the week.]
Last weekend I decided it was time to research solutions to improve my websites' performance.
I've been working this week to get combat up and running reliably. It is starting to come together now, at least well enough for a screenshot.
[Things are going badly for Red. Blue is getting a lot of loot!]
I showed The Imperial Realm::Miranda
at Full Indie
again tonight. Just like last time
it was great fun.
I got to The Pint
at about ten after six to set up, found myself a table (actually the same table as last time) and started up the server. As always happens when you want to show someone what you're working on, something immediately went wrong -- the server wouldn't start. I knew it had to do with setting up the game to run standalone with no internet. Firing the game up under the debugger I was able to figure it out just in time for the 6:30 start. It looked kind of funny having 9 instances of Visual Studio running while I was demoing the game. The good news was that once I worked through that little problem, the game ran flawlessly all night.
[During one of my breaks, I took a quick snap of my table.]
Like last time, I talked pretty much continuously from 6:30 until 9:45 (I got just two five minute breaks.) Most people stayed 10 minutes or more and I was often speaking to several people at a time. There are some real serious strategy game fans out there.
If you aren't a programmer, here's a little sample of what we do to make games for you.
Today, at long last, I fixed a bug that goes back to Christmas 2014. The bug first appeared right after I updated the renderer
for better performance. One of the things that that change added was a hard limit to the number of shader programs the Lair engine could support: 4096. I figured that should be lots since I only had a few hundred shaders even with permutations. One afternoon while cruising over Miranda, the game halted because it had hit the limit of shader programs. I was shocked. But when I looked into it the reason became readily apparent: I never released shader programs from materials when they were unloaded. It was a simple oversight, quickly rectified with this little bit of code:
void Pass::ShutdownProgram( void )
if ( mProgramId == 0 )
if ( mGeometryShaderId != 0 )
mGlShaders->DetachShader( mProgramId, mGeometryShaderId );
mGlShaders->DestroyShader( mGeometryShaderId );
mGeometryShaderId = 0;
if ( mVertexShaderId != 0 )
mGlShaders->DetachShader( mProgramId, mVertexShaderId );
mGlShaders->DestroyShader( mVertexShaderId );
mVertexShaderId = 0;
if ( mPixelShaderId != 0 )
mGlShaders->DetachShader( mProgramId, mPixelShaderId );
mGlShaders->DestroyShader( mPixelShaderId );
mPixelShaderId = 0;
mGlShaders->DestroyProgram( mProgramId );
mProgramId = 0;
Now I was destroying the shaders and programs when they were no longer needed. Problem solved.
Then the Bad Bug
This started as a comment in reply to Tripleskit
but then I wanted to add a picture so...When will this game be accessible for open/close beta/alpha?
Ahh, when. The ever-present question. With just me to do the work, not a team of 300, or even 10, things happen a little more gradually than they do with bigger projects.
I posted this on screenshotsaturday.com
yesterday. I took it while finishing up unit movement when I noticed that flowers offer a bit of of camoflage which isn't an element in any of the RTS games I've played in the past. If you wanted, you could change your player color to match the flowers to blend even better. I'm not sure if that will become a thing or not, I just thought it was interesting.
Movement is looking pretty good now. Not perfect, but I'm running out of things I can do to improve it. I have one bug left that I started work on last evening and Monday I'm moving on to polishing combat.
I haven't had anything new and exciting to blog about lately because mainly I've been fixing and finishing things since the middle of January. Some people like to be fancy and call it "technical debt," I just call it "finishing stuff."
I read that awful interview with Peter Molyneux last week at Rock, Paper, Shotgun
and one thing he said really made me empathize with the situation he finds himself in. It's something I think many people really don't appreciate and it went by pretty fast in that unbelievably long article. I'm not here to defend 22Cans.
They've messed up on a grand scale. But I think that one thing he said is worth taking a further moment to consider:"Anything that involves creativity, you may think it should be a defined process, but it's not. And the reason that it's not a defined process is that the people who work on it aren't robots, and you can't predict whether someone is going to be brilliant and you give them a piece of code to do and they do it in a day, or whether they're going to take a month to do it, and that's the problem with creativity. Being creative is a very, very unpredictable force, and you try your best. You try your best to predict these things but very often you can be wrong." - Peter Molyneux.
I've done a lot of software development. It mostly goes like this: analyze the problem, work out a solution, estimate the tasks, run through them one at a time, do a QA pass, and you have a finished software "something". I'm actually pretty good at estimating that sort of work and ran on or slightly-under budget on whatever I did. If you're making business software or an annual sports title, or a tetris clone, you can
predict with reasonable certainty when things will be done.
Now try to do something that nobody has ever done before. Make a God game with extensive interactivity of every object in the world and emergent systems. Make an RTS that lets not four or 8 players play together, but thousands, operating not one, but hundreds of in-game avatars in real-time on a map not a few hundred metres on a side, but hundreds of kilometres on a side. You have 16 milliseconds and 1KB/second bandwidth in each direction. Go!
Player count was up, crash count was down so both those numbers are trending in the right direction. There's simply no way I can find all the bugs myself because everybody plays different and has different equipment (we tracked one player's crashes ...
I was not able to play too much this week. But I have to say the amount of crashes was a lot lower. Unfortunately not completely gone though.
Looking forward to see where it goes from here!
A player found a bug that only affected players playing for the first time today and resulted in most keyboard controls (like WASD scrolling) not working. I have put out a new build which will prevent this problem going forward. ...
I didn't remove any keys, and if you got into game your account will still be just as you left it.
If you already had a key last time, you can simply keep using that one? Or do I need to request a new one?