21 November 2006

Heroes of Might and Magic 5

A few days ago, I bought HOMM5. Having played the first 3 games a lot, I figured out that this game will be at least as good as the previous ones.
I started to install it, and after inserting the first CD it asked me to install the 3rd CD, then the 4th one.. The second CD was never used.

Then I started to play it. In the beginning, I was happy with it, until I got to mission 3 in the second campaign.
Well, that mission can be pretty much impossible. I was reading on some forums that tons of people had problems with it. Eventually, I had to use a cheat to skip it.
Now I am on mision 4, second campaign. On my AMD X2 4800+, GF 7300 GS (256 MB VRAM), 2GB system RAM, there are times when I get 0.5 FPS. There are lots of trees and stuff, but come on, under 1 FPS? Eternal Lands, with the shadows on and a 2048x2048 shadow map never got under 20 FPS on this machine.

And the cherry on the cake, there is this bug where your resources will not increase every day (in fact, they just stop increasing at all).
Now I am downloading 150 MB of patches, hope it will be playable after that, but I'm not so sure. Too bad I can't return the game, it's been the worst 50 USD I ever spent on a video game.

[update] It seems that the no resources thing is not a bug.. It's a special ingame week, "Week of festivals". Of course, they don't say what that week does, as there is no info about that in the game...

15 November 2006

Plans for the future.

EL is pretty complete for the time being, there are a few things to add, and some tweakings to do, but overall the game is almost complete.

If EL were a single player game, I'd move on and make another game. But with MMOs, you don't have that luxury, people expect you to always add new content, and you have to maintain the game as well.
Some of you remember that about 2 years ago, I wanted to make a new MMO, called Barren Moon. That project didn't work well, with team mebers leaving, and me being too busy with EL.

Recently, I started to think about how to improve EL beyound just adding new items, and I wanted to add player houses for quite a while now (since this summer). Since a player housing system requires a dynamic map format, I am thinking to take this a little farther and add to EL most of the Barren Moon features.

Here is a small sumary on how it's going to be:
The dynamic maps will be on a separate planet, where you can get via a portal, after paying a fee. You won't be able to take any item with you except for gold coins (maybe a few other items as well).
Once you are there, you will be able to join an existing city, or help create a new city.
Each city will be totally player built, and there will be a mayor (elected by democratic vote), research advisor, military advisor, commerce advisor, and so on, each elected by democratic vote.
Players will be able to construct buildings, research new technology, etc. The technology will start at an iron age level, then evolve to plasma cannons, space ships and other SciFi stuff. It will not be possible (or it will be very hard to the point of not being worth it) to bring items from the new planet to the 'standard' EL.
People that do not like SciFi are free not to go on the new planet, in case someone has a problem with that.

Anyway, I will give more details on this as I start implementing it. If everything goes according to my expectations, a preliminary test version should be available this comming spring or summer, and it should make it in the client in Q4 of 2007 (about 1 year from now).

07 November 2006

Some plans for the near future

As many of you know, one of the strenghts of EL is the community. People are usually nice and helpful, and due to the fact that doing stuff alone is pretty hard, there is a lot of interaction between players. This interaction is usually stronger between the member of a guild, which usually have their own private forums, common goals, share guild projects, make war plans, and so on.

So this close relation between the members of a guild, and the rivalry can be exploited to make the game better. Which is why the interguilds alliances was implemented yesterday. What this system does is allow the guilds and their summoned animals in the combat to not be able to attack eachother. Before this feature was implemented, guild wars were hard, because your summoned animals would attack your friends.

The next thing that will be implemented is the enemy guilds system. This basically allows guilds to declare war to eachother, and if the war declaration is mutual, then the players from those guilds can fight pretty much anywhere in the game, not just the PK maps, at night. And whenever a player kills another player from a mutually enemy guild, the guild of the killer gets a frag, while the guild of the loser loses a frag. And there will be a top with the 20 most powerful (in terms of frags) guilds. Most of the PKers said they will like such a system, which is good.

After I am done with that, I will start implementing one of the features I wanted for a very long time:
Basically, there will be a few small locations in the game, in a PK map or area, where if they are occupied by a player from a guild, his whole guild will get some advantage (probably something like 10% more experience in a skill). Each skill will have it's own area, so I expect people to go and kill eachother in an attempt to control that point. This, I believe, will cause non fighting guilds to hire fighters to hold those points.
Obviously, many players will complain about it, as they always do, but I think it's better for the game, and eventually they will start liking it.

Those features, plus a few other that I want to implement will take about a month, and then I will start working at player run cities, housing, and so on. But more about this in a later post.

01 November 2006

The Ghost of Halloween Past

Usually, on Halloween, people decorate their suroundings with creepy things, including spiders, bats and ghosts.
In Eternal Lands, we have spiders, we don't have bats, and we had ghosts.

A few weeks ago, after disabling some redundant checks in a time consuming function, we started to observer something strange. In hell (the underworld) there would be some players that had a name and everything, but they didn't move, and you couldn't even interact with them (look at, trade, etc.)
Even stranger was the fact that sometimes a player with the same name was online, but sometimes there was no player but the ghost.

While this bug seemed to be relatively benign, we wanted to make sure we know why it happens, because it could have been just the tip of the iceberg. Debugging a MMO server can be very frustrating, especially when you don't even know when, why or how a bug occurs. Using a debugger is not an option, at least not when people are playing the game.
So the only tool we have are the logs. It turned out that the logs we had were not enough, so we had to log even more stuff, like for example, what ID a player has when he logs in, log each death, together with the location and time, and various other tricks.
We even made a command to check for ghosts, so we won't have to go to hell and manually look for them.

All in all it took about two weeks of looking through the code and logs, talking with players, and writting debug functions. Eventually it paid off more than I expected, because this bug could have been used, under special circustances, to duplicate items. The good thing is, no one exploited it, at least not in the last 2 weeks. Giving the complexity of the problem, I doubt anyone willingly exploited it, although I heard some rare reports in the past about bags with the same items the player was having spawning in front of the player.

Now everything is fixed, and we hope that the next Halloween we won't have any uninteded ghosts :)