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Evil Echo
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Evil's posts

Previously I had mentioned that the burdens of caring for my father had picked up and made finding time to work on Zulu more difficult. That ended in late January when my dad passed away. I'm glad he is now at rest and with his beloved wife again - though I miss him terribly. In the last few months I've been helping my brother settle the estate, which should be finalized in a few more weeks.

Besides little chores around the house I have resumed a more regular schedule of work on Zulu. There is a lot to reorganize, plus the Unity 5x series broke a lot of my materials and prefabs during import - forcing recreation of those items. One good thing is my increasing usage of the polymorphic unit classes for physics calculations. Being able to specify meters or feet for example has been a god-send in many spots, especially when dealing with equations taken from older literature where units were either mixed or not metric at all. One sub-project is to get polymorphic units to display as such in the editor windows. It would be handy to be able to see the value in differing units there for debugging purposes.

The graphic interface to MySQL crashes under windows 10. As a result I cannot use MySQL without a lot of hacking that am not willing to expend cycles on. I still wish to use the SQL query language. So, switching to Microsoft's SQL Server 2014. Now have the project resources adjusted to call the M$ DLL's.

Unity has also changed the default code editor to now be the one in the Visual Express suit. It takes some time to get used to, but not bad.

Life activities like taking care of my father have also contributed to a slow-down. I'm hoping for a return to my former pace as some of the issues normalize.



The new UI for Zulu is close to completion.

Began work on getting spawning characters up again and hit a big speedbump. My prefabs, containing the old characters already rigged and with all the Zulu scripts positioned inside properly, did not import correctly into Unity 5. All the meshes and script info are gone. So basically have to reconstruct the prefab from scratch. For the munitions that will be merely tedious, for my main player it's going to be more arduous.

However, once the spawn/prefab issue is cleared I can bring in some new munitions that were requested by Adrian Bonzon and naval combat per Cody Curtin. Have not forgotten, folks - just takes a while because of this move East and the reorg if code to make redistribution easier if/when that happens.

One problem in simulation is the adaptation of individual formula to work in a unified system. Frequently one finds that some of the best sources of information use non-metric units of measurement. This often occurs in texts and papers written by US researchers prior to 1970. In some cases both metric and imperial units appeared in the same equation.

Converting the equations can be daunting - mainly due to use of constants that are not fully documented, which leads to doubts over the correct way to convert such numbers. In any case, there is always difficulty in verifying the correctness of the converted equation.

I've decided to take a different tack and avoid converting the formula, but attack the problem from the data side.

In Zulu there are now a number of classes that each manage a given dimension ( mass, length, temperature ) while offering interfaces that present the quantity being managed in differing units. So I can store a value into such a class as X number of pounds and then later refer to it using kilograms. Compared to other techniques there is far less book-keeping and the conversion process is kept in the background. A series of unit test classes accompany these classes to allow for verification of the algorithms.

Besides providing a pathway to use of non-metric formula, I have found these classes to be most useful in internal documentation. The new code statements now include precisely what units are involved, eliminating a great deal of ambiguity. Given the success of this technique I expect to see it's use in more modules of Zulu as they are updated and of course where appropriate for performance reasons. 

I have been working on a reorganization of Zulu.

Zulu, for those not familiar with it, is a software library I have been writing to help develop combat simulations via the Unity game engine. My niche market are those into hyper-reality.

Along the way I have made a few decisions that challenge the norm in online gaming.

1. No support for in-game chat. In actual online play I have found chat to be useless. People either use it for off-topic chatter or spam inappropriate  matter like hacks for sale, links to dubious websites, etc.

2. No scripting support. Use the API if you want to use my stuff, scripting just opens a door to cheats. It may not eliminate all cheats, but not going to make it trivial for those folks.

3. No nerfing. Both players and developers talk about balance. There is no such thing in real life. Instead of nerfing items in an attempt to make a match "fair", just let it play realistically and use the scenario to create the balance. For PvP matches, the one-true-way to achieve "balance" if you must is just have both sides equipped with identical inventory. Then the better skilled player should prevail.

4. Not aiming for huge numbers of players. A fair number of people demand that combat games should support as large a count of simultaneous players as possible - the idea being that they can form up into larger units like platoons and companies. While in favor of such play - I have found that the attempts are largely an abject failure due to inappropriate activity or outright sabotage of the session. Accordingly, I'll aim for as large as Zulu will take and not compromise  the feature list just to squeak out a dozen more slots. Probably 32, maybe 64 players at most.

5. Zombies. This is hyper-reality folks - you see any zombies running around your town right now? If so, need to see a doctor about rampant hallucinations.

6. Dumb non-player characters. By and large, developers do not put a lot of smarts into their NPCs. To compensate they end up throwing hordes of NPCs at the gamer. I'd rather fight a small number of hideously smart NPCs than a horde of mindless  ones. Players that I have polled have unanimously  agreed with me on this point.

It may be that these choices make Zulu less popular - I'm ok with that. Zulu has been evolving for several years now and it still has a fan base that seems quite devoted to it.
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