Onto a New Chapter

It has been a long time since my last dev blog update so I figured I’d fill you in on some details.

As of the end of October I have finished working for my previous job as a software consultant and I’m now in the transition stage of working fulltime on Deadworld Studios. I’m moving from the UK to Germany to be with my girlfriend. Once that has happened I will be fulltime on setting DWS to be what Jargon and I dream it can be.

Progress slowed down over the months of August, September and October due to unrealistic working hours from my previous job. Needless to say now that is behind me I can start crunching through our TODO: list!

Expect a lot more frequent updates to Mechadroids from us as we ramp into full gear! From here things can only get better!

Beware of the Kittuns

Hola!  Another dev post in a relatively short time.  The reason being that we’ve been pretty busy behind the scenes.  We’re flying through our task list but there’s still a lot to do.  Also, it doesn’t help when new tasks sudden spring up and require urgent addressing (the website redesign was one of them, I couldn’t deal with looking at that bland old site any longer), such as what has just happened again…

With the setting up of Deadworld Studios as a private limited company and our business bank account (with associated PayPal and Google Checkout accounts), we’re getting to a point where we’re trying to increase our profile.  I started redesigning our website and little did I know that CWolf decided to submit our site to StumbleUpon, next thing I know I’m looking at a Google Analytics page that looks like this (image on right) and consequently a GMail account that looks like that (image on left).  Now, we’re not strangers to forum spam.  We have a few mods in place that keep these nefarious spammers at bay.  First off we’re using a Project Honey Pot to waste spammers’ and harvesters’ time and aid in the discovery of these.  Then we use a couple of SMF mods, one basically blocks all access for 100% guaranteed spammers, the other requires them to be approved if there is a suspicion that they are spammers.  Up until now this set up has been working for us but it does mean we get quite a lot of notices and have to go in and clear all the spammer accounts periodically.

Of course, with the influx of new traffic (regardless of whether there is a high bounce rate), we are attracting more spammers and with SMF’s poor CAPTCHA system something needed to be done.  Now, this is something I had been planning on doing for a long time, I even prototyped it a client-side only version, but never had time to fully implement it, but last night I blitzed it out (and I have a splitting headache now because of it).

Back in University (or just after) I came across a CAPTCHA system called KittenAuth (created by Oli Warner), either via StumbleUpon or The Register and thought “Hey, that’s a pretty genius idea.” but I couldn’t find any implementation of it, but that was fine, all I needed was the idea, so I bookmarked the page.  Basically, instead of using the traditional distorted sequence of character or words, it uses image recognition, specifically Kittens, in a 3×3 grid.  The idea is that only some of them are Kittens, the others are… well… other things.  So, armed with an idea (thanks Oli!) I give you KittunAuth, a mod for SMF 2.0 RC4 which adds KittenAuth anti-bot protection.  I’m also happy to say that since the installation of the KittunAuth mod for our forum, we’ve had no forum spammer registrations and even though it’s only been active overnight, this is still a plus as I usually wake up to a few sat in my inbox.

If anyone is interested in this forum mod for their own SMF forum, don’t hesitate to comment here to show your interest and I’ll see if I can make it compatible for other versions.  At the moment KittunAuth is still an incredibly early version and hasn’t really been tested, we’ll see how it performs over the coming weeks.

All Work and Some Play

Profit and Loss Sign

I’ve been pretty productive tonight. I’ve clocked in some programming, some design and a small website tweak. Now for the past hour I’ve been looking though the financial side of things. This side of setting up and running a company will be one of the harder things to handle in Deadworld. As I’ve had ever so slightly more experience in this field than James we decided that I’d be the poor soul to tackle it (not without the help of James though… or I think a little of me would break down inside). So tonight I’ve been trying to figure out cashflow and profit/loss record keeping.

While things are confusing now I know I’ll grasp it sooner or later. I know for one thing that it’ll be very important to have our transactions well recorded. We’re helped there with Google Checkout and Paypal to a certain level as they can print out nice reports for us on a monthly basis. What I’m more concerned about is the non-third party system transactions – the ones that interact directly with our bank account. Each one will need to be labelled for identification and recorded as such for later. It’ll take a bit of practice but we’ll get there.

Now for a game of Project Zomboid before bed!

Time For a Make Over

Finally got around to updating the website.  This has been a task on our list for a long time, just we have been incredibly busy with other facets of Deadworld Studios (please see: Deadworld, Inc.) so it kept getting put off and as time went on we increasingly thought that the site was extremely bland.

As we’re a small company we don’t have a whole lot of resources behind us and therefore don’t have dedicated artists. So we have been practicing and following tutorials. A while back Rich made a red planet for use in the background with the old site, but it didn’t quite fit in. We both thought we’d want to include the planet in a star-scape of some kind but had no star-scape to go with it.

So there I was, looking at our bland website and thinking back to the planet image, and I had a sudden surge of inspiration.  I knew exactly what I wanted, I just hoped that I had the skills to pull it off.  A quick Google later and I had found a pretty impressive GIMP tutorial on creating a star-scape and I began working through it.  I took Rich’s red planet, sucked the colour out of it and tinted it a grey-blue (after all, it’s supposed to be a dead world right?).  I proceeded to position it in the bottom right of the star-scape.  It looked good, real good.

Now, the problem with backgrounds like this is that they do not scroll… at all.  So it had to be anchored.  And then there’s the issue with different resolutions, perspectives and that CSS2 cannot stretch background images.  So after a bit of HTML and CSS trickery I managed to hack together a fake-background that scaled to the browser window.  It looks a little blurred on larger resolutions, but I was massively impressed with the effect.  Now, at this point, I figured I didn’t want to tarnish my efforts by slapping the old site on top… this new background warranted a new site altogether.  So out came the sketch book!

Now, I’m not a massive fan of fixed width sites.  My usual retort is “If a web developer can’t get their site to dynamically scale correctly, then they’re not a very good developer.”  However, we now have a sexy space scene to look at that should not be entirely covered up.  I actually have a good reason to implement a fixed width site.  I also wanted spaces between the various elements to allow the background to show through as much as possible.  The the designed I came up with was a simple 2 column site with floating stand-alone elements and the Deadworld logo and title sitting freely above against the background.  The footer would obviously be pushed down by the dynamic content and would hardly ever line up correctly, but this is not really a problem… sexy background, remember?

I chose to go with the white borders and black background because it’s based on the style of the Deadworld Studios logo, which seemed satisfactory.  After, tweaking the styles and playing around with the various floating elements, I decided (along with a friend) that the black backgrounds should be transparent as too much of the background was being covered and I was creeping back into the realm of blandness again.  I also had to be careful as text on top of images is a big no-no in web design and can make reading pretty hard, so I kept the transparency effect minimal.  The resulting effect made the site look a whole lot better.

Anyway, I hope you guys like the new site.  At the time of writing there are still a few things that need to be sorted out (such as commenting), so just bear with it for a couple days till I can get it all fixed.


The Technology of a Deadworld – Project Management

Managing a games company is no different to managing any other organisation, group or project.  There are some small subtle difference but in the end to make progress you need to set tasks to complete and deadlines you actually meet.  We realised relatively early on we needed a central organised way of ensuring the team knew what was required of them and how much time they had.  Welcome to the world of project management. (more…)

The Technology of a Deadworld Series Introduction

We’ve decided to write a series of posts that will cover the range of different technology we use to aid us at Deadworld Studios.  In each post we’ll discuss the specific areas of management, game design and development which lead us to adopt an existing solution or develop our own solution to aid us.  Moving further into our need we’ll discuss what options we were presented with, the reasons behind our choice and how we utilised it.  We’ll reflect on our experiences and if this has lead us to do things differently in the future.  We have a few interesting stories centered around the times we went through with the technology so those will be thrown in too for good measure!

Stay tuned for our first entry!

Lasting business is built on friendship

Through CWolf and Jargon you’ve caught a glimpse of the technical side of things and the development of computer games. I’m hoping to give you an idea of the other (admittedly more boring) aspects of Deadworld Studios.

So, the business side of things, getting things set up and running legally and financially.

This isn’t a business blog so I’m not going to go into a huge amount of detail, instead I’m just going to skim over some of the problems we’ve had and how we’ve addressed them. (more…)

Integrate This!

Over the past week I’ve been working pretty hard on getting Hudson, our continuous integration software, integrated with all the tools and code we have.  It’s been a little bit of an up hill struggle and a steep learning curve in some areas but all in all things seem to be going well.

So far we’ve integrated Bugzilla (Bug tracking), SVN (Code Repository), TestNG with the ReportNG addon (Unit Testing), ANT (Build Tool) and Java compiling / Javadoc (Documentation) into Hudson.  These are very important tools to us and we will be adding more useful things to Hudson over the coming weeks.  The initial effort to integrated all your tools may seem expensive in regards to time but once things are together it provides a very seamless way of working (not to mention the satisfying feeling!). When we commit our code we know it’s going to be bombarded by the unit tests and recording code coverage metrics along with static byte code analysis, to pick up common coding issues, for our use to ensure we can provide the best games we can.  It’ll refine our way of working and ultimately speed our development up.

All in all I’d say these are exciting times!

Wax On, Wax Off

Well, as you may have noticed the new site is up and running (thanks Ben).  So that means we can start populating it with precious information regarding our projects.

Anyway, we’re still working hard on Root Access and we’re very close to wrapping up the alpha, just implementing the last couple of features and then it’s onto testing.  We’re also setting up supporting stuff for Root Access, such as bug trackers for our alpha users, as well as ‘official’ game information on this site.  We’ve had a Twitter account that we’ve been tweeting to during the development of RA (link to it is on the footer navigation at the bottom of this page), so there’s some interesting stuff on there if you wish to follow us.  There will also be a Facebook page that will be launched too, once we get the ‘official’ game info up.

The last couple of features that need to be implemented into RA is the ability to attach a file to a message and send it to another character/player.  Once this is done we’ll be able to write some Steal-type missions where the player is required to download some data from a target server and then message the file back to their employer.  We’ve already got quite a few Delete-type missions, in which you’re just required to gain access to a server and delete data… but remember to clean up your logs or you’ll get caught!

Almost There…

So, we’ve been working on Root Access for quite a while now and it’s getting pretty close to an alpha release.  Just got a few more things to take care of first with the game and then get an installer/updater developed to go with it.

For those of you who don’t know what Root Access is, it is Deadworld Studios’ first title that will be officially released.  The game takes a lot of inspiration from Introversion Software’s Uplink, a pseudo-hacking game, which is extremely fun and highly addictive.  The only flaw with this game is that it is only single-player and Introversion Software have mentioned that they’re only interested in innovative and unique games and as a result will not develop an Uplink 2 or an Online Uplink game.  Introversion Software aren’t the only game development company that have developed a hacking game which does not include multi-player and from our point of view, this is a significant oversight as the nature of hacking does usually involve a human target.

Therefore, Root Access is an MMO pseudo-hacking game where players are pitched against computer players as well as each other.  We’re hoping the human versus human aspect of Root Access will give the game a whole new layer of strategy that is missing from all other single-player pseudo-hacking games.

For more information on what Root Access is all about and how it will play, please check out the Root Access project page.

Interfacing with UI #4 – Coherent UI

February 5th, 2016

This is part of a series of posts revolving around user interface design and development, the introduction and links to the other posts can be found here. Last I wrote about user interfaces I discussed the new Unity UI system and I wrote about our process of porting from Daikon Forge to it. That was a year and a half ago and a lot has changed since then. To keep things interesting we decided to move from Unity UI (yet another move?!) to Coherent UI and I’ll explain why we did it. Why Move… Again?!... (read more)

@SolitudeGame: Status update: Fuel reserves low. Asteroid mining facility detected on sensors. No response to our communications. On approach station appears to be abandoned and running on emergency power only. Away mission approved. Mission objective: Search and salvage - fuel is a priority.

23/03/2022 @ 11:00am UTC

@RogueVec: And so it begins! #RebootDevelop

19/04/2018 @ 8:05am UTC

@RogueVec: We'll be at @RebootDevelop this year. We can't wait! If you want to hang out just give us a shout! #RebootDevelop2018 #GameDev

16/04/2018 @ 12:06pm UTC

@SolitudeGame: Fullscreen terminals allow you to hook into your ship's guns for fine control! Moddable gun modules, terminals and UI! https://t.co/B5N01jrA70 #GameDev

8/12/2017 @ 4:58pm UTC

@CWolf: Woo! And, now we have a cross-compiled (nix --> win64) @SolitudeGame server in our build and deploy pipeline #RV #GameDev

28/11/2017 @ 3:39pm UTC