RE: When? (Full Version)

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Jeff Gilbert -> RE: When? (3/17/2006 8:10:59 PM)

quote:

ORIGINAL: Froonp

Thanks for this. [&o]
Each month you have posted this status report, and each month I wondered if I was dreaming ! [sm=00000436.gif]


I must say, I fall into this category myself. I've been playing WiF for quite a while [on and off] and am absolutly thrilled to see the computerized version taking shape.

I'll get back on my lurker perch now and let you code. [:D]




Jeff Gilbert -> RE: When? (3/30/2006 11:23:39 PM)

Almost time for the 1 April 2006 update!
Be still my beating heart.
One of my absolute favorite reading areas.

Of course, I am prepared for the April Fools Day "MWiF is ready" joke. [:'(]




Shannon V. OKeets -> RE: When? (3/31/2006 11:01:37 PM)

April 1, 2006 Status Report for Matrix Gamesí MWIF Forum

Accomplishments of March

Project Management
A target date of summer 2006 is my best guess at this time (unchanged from last month).

Communications
Very little product from Rob Armstrong this past month. He sent 4 versions of the Alpine hexes, none of which were worthy of being posted for review to the forum members. He also sent a revised bitmap for the 15 or so Qattara Depression hexes. I need to slice that into separate bitmaps for individual hexes and modify the program to read them in and use them. Rob and I have worked out how to do the rivers and lakes so they will look good at all levels of zoom. Once Rob gets the Alpine hexes and the new rivers and lakes overlays to me, Iíll have him start sending me the thousands of high resolution graphics images for the air and naval units.

I monitored all the threads in the MWIF World in Flames forum daily. Members of the forum continue to be helpful. Though, things are a little slow there because of the lack of new graphics and the fact I am busy debugging in support of the beta testers

Dan Hatchen is close to sending me the Internet code to integrate into the existing code. Over the past month he and I ironed out a few more of its details.

Roger Feed promises to finish converting the new counters from Cruisers in Flames and Convoys in Flames to a format I can immediately incorporate into MWIF.

Claes Insulander has agreed to work on modifying the Scandinavian portion of the map in accordance to the changes made by Nils Andresen. He is waiting on Matrix Games to give him authorization to work on the project, having just submitted a non-disclosure agreement this past week.

A third volunteer who offered to help with the game by creating write-ups for the naval units has disappeared. Sigh. We are 0 for 3 on that task. Graham Dodge did stellar work on the air units and has now completed 3/4 of the Leader/HQ units too.

I remain in email contact with Chris Marinacci about how CWIF works, though this is now infrequent.

Beta Testing
I uploaded the first version (03) of MWIF for beta testing on March 9th and have averaged two new versions per week. The 20 beta testers currently have 08 to test, while I am working on 09. In order to maintain a semblance of order, I keep a master record of all the reports from the beta testers and any attempts I make at fixing problems. The goal is to move all the bug reports into the section labeled Closed.

The initial flood of reports was around 50 and after 3 weeks of effort on everyoneís part (they add to the list and I work on diminishing it), we still are at around 50. Todayís numbers are: 12 / 2 / 14 / 12 / 10. Those numbers stand for: Fatal / Critical / Bad / Cosmetic / Suggestion. I have 42 additional items marked as Closed. That works out to 2/day for both me and them. The majority of the fatal errors arose because of my ignorance concerning pre-existing program assumptions (i.e., CWIF). A few of the remaining fatal bugs I have tracked down as previous CWIF bugs that do not have obvious solutions.

Almost all the cosmetic and suggestion Ďbugí reports have to do with the player interface, and I agree that most of the forms displayed on the screen need drastic revision. I have made notes on all of them (roughly 100 forms in CWIF) and have designed some new ones. However, I am holding off on coding them until I get the overall color scheme for MWIF forms defined by Rob.

CWIF Conversion
I finished the new save and restore game routines. That worked out to be 5600 lines of code. Virtually all the code related to saving and restoring a game are now in that one routine (85 printed pages). Of course there were numerous bugs - which the beta testers helped me identify. Hopefully not many (none?) remain.

I need to replace the interface for the save and restore functions. The ones MWIF currently uses were inherited from CWIF. Replacing them has to be done carefully because they were done using some Microsoft ďeasy to implementĒ routines. That means they can not be modified, their internal workings are obscure at best, dysfunctional at worst, and integrated into other lines of code in ways that can be viewed as either clever or diabolical. My vote is for the latter. For saving scrap lists, units, terrain and map data, and optional rules, I wrote my own interface. Trivial to do, simple to modify, and extremely reliable. The Microsoft provided stuff, on the other hand, ...

In addition to the above, my main problem with CWIF last month was with the Date and Phase variables. Now, as you would expect, these variables appear in the code in over 1000 places. Itís sort of important to know what the turn, impulse, and phase are. CWIF had two Date variables (both called Date) and two Phase variables (both called Phase). They had slightly different meanings, but were both used globally throughout the code. It took me a long time to figure out that some of the most annoying bugs the beta testers were running into were due to the variable Date being used when the variable Date should have been used. No, I did not mistype the last sentence. It is illustrative of the joys of debugging those problems.

The beta testers have numerous recommendations for improving the interface. Though they have nowhere near as many as I do.

Map and Units
Rob still need to do the artwork for some basic map elements: fortifications, straits, and Alpine hexsides. The beta testers also found many other cosmetic things to correct in the map (Patrice prepared a very long and detailed list). When I get a chance Iíll work my way through making all those little modifications. They are all data driven so changing them is easy to do; it just requires some time. Rob sent over new swamp terrain so the color blind players can now tell the clear hexes from the swamp hexes.

I have the layout for the high resolution air units pretty much done. I decided to write the text for the unit names on the fly rather than have them as part of the bitmap image. The trouble with using the bitmaps for text is that the different levels of zoom caused degradation of the image. Having the program put the text in on the fly using True Type fonts (Arial narrow) makes for clearer lettering.

Rob is still waiting on the latest and greatest images of the counter sheets in computer file format from Harry Rowland. That is rather quickly heading towards becoming part of my critical path.

Saved Games
Done, unless the beta testers find more bugs.

Game Interface
Several changes at the suggestion of the beta testers. For example, the naval combat form had two labels: Active Damage and Inactive Damage, with naval combat results listed for each. This was before any combat occurred. Somewhat confusing, eh? Whoís Active and whoís Inactive wasnít all that clear. Those labels now read: Expected Axis Results and Expected Allied Results.

The primary reason for that information is to assist the player in deciding how to spend Surprise points. However, the whole form needs a redesign. Spending surprise points can occur at different subphases of a naval combat, and unless you are extremely well versed in the naval combat sequence, where to spend how many points can be difficult to figure out. The form needs to clarify that so even novices feel that they know what they are doing when spending surprise points.

Redesign of MWIF Game Engine
I investigated this some more. Once Dan Hatchen is ready to go with integrating his Internet code into MWIF, I will wreck havoc on how the program currently does this (CWIF legacy code). CWIF was designed originally for Head-to-Head play and Chris built a second structure to put in Internet play. The latter code was never completed.

The redesign will support: head-to-head, Internet, play by email, and solitaire (against an AI opponent). It will also support replaying a game from a game record log: each move and decision the players make. Using the record log, previous games will be replayable both forwards and backwards in time.

Scenario Information
Nothing new here.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
Nothing new here other than a few odds comments from different forum members (mostly beta testers).

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Work on this has been in hiatus because I have been focusing heavily on supporting the beta testing.

Other
I finished the dialogue for the script for my chorusí spring show. I do so get annoyed when the director cuts some of my jokes. She did away with all my Shalespeare quotes too! Arrgh.

========================================================================
March summary: beta testing started in earnest. Go team! Now if I can just keep the graphics moving along ...
========================================================================


Tasks for April

Communications
Continue monitoring the forum threads.

Beta Testing
Have the beta testers continue to rigorous test the rules to see if MWIF implements them in accordance with RAW. And hammer away at the interface. And critique the graphics.

Map and Units
Get started on putting in the final high resolution bitmaps for the air and naval units. Put in a new (and hopefully final) overlay of the rivers and lakes for the European maps so they look good at all levels of resolution. Add the Alpine hexsides terrain as bitmaps. Start Claes on revising the Scandinavian portion of the map. Incorporate all the new units from Roger Feed.

CWIF Conversion
Thoroughly test the new random number generator (oops, this was here last month!).

Game Interface
Finish the changes to the Start of Game form.

Redesign of MWIF Game Engine
Begin installing a new MWIF Game Engine.

Software Development Tools
Develop an expanded version of the test program for Internet communications using Indy10 (multiple players over the Internet).

Multiplayer Internet [May]
Incorporate the Indy10 code for the new design for the multiplayer system into MWIF. This requires replacing the the CWIF calls to DirectPlay.

AI Opponent
Finish defining the relationship between the air, naval, and land unit values. Continue working on defining the value of individual hexes and a line of hexes (i.e., a front line).

Historical Detail, Animations, and Sound
Identify with whom at Matrix I should work to define exactly what will be included in the game for all of these.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
Finalize the design for the help system.
===============================================================================
April summary: Some new high resolution air units would be nice. Add some functioning Internet code and Iíll be happy..
===============================================================================




Jeff Gilbert -> RE: When? (4/4/2006 3:32:53 AM)

Ahhh ... my thirst is quenched for another month.
My thanks for the updates.




wodin -> RE: When? (4/4/2006 11:28:00 AM)

Me too. I have to say it again these updates are very enlightening.




Ballista -> RE: When? (4/4/2006 6:43:27 PM)

Woohoo ! This gives me something to look forward to at the beginning of the month (instead of just making sure my bills have all been paid). Very enlightening too. Keep up the good work !




wfzimmerman -> RE: When? (4/4/2006 8:28:45 PM)

This is really one of the most impressive project management efforts I have ever seen. Quite inspirational.

Fred Zimmerman, B.S, J.D., P.M.P., TS/IITYIHTKY (If I Told You I'd Have to Kill You)




wfzimmerman -> RE: When? (4/4/2006 8:30:20 PM)

quote:

ORIGINAL: Ballista

Woohoo ! This gives me something to look forward to at the beginning of the month (instead of just making sure my bills have all been paid)...


That must be a nice feeling ...




Mziln -> RE: When? (4/5/2006 2:49:17 AM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: wfzimmerman

This is really one of the most impressive project management efforts I have ever seen. Quite inspirational.

Fred Zimmerman, B.S, J.D., P.M.P., TS/IITYIHTKY (If I Told You I'd Have to Kill You)


Not if they reactivated mine [:D]





Windfire -> RE: When? (4/8/2006 6:22:24 AM)

Very impressed by the detailed monthly status reports. Would love to see them for all Matrix games in development. Definately looking forward to playing this one on the computer. May be able to get some of the old crowd back into it who can't break free of families for the long term board game version.




wodin -> RE: When? (4/27/2006 12:54:16 PM)

How many lines of code will there be (at a rough guess) when its all finished?

Just curious.

Thanks




Shannon V. OKeets -> RE: When? (4/27/2006 7:58:05 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: wodin

How many lines of code will there be (at a rough guess) when its all finished?

Just curious.

Thanks


I was given roughly 100,000 lines of Delphi/Pascal code from CWIF to start with (Chris Marinacci - programmer).

That code include less than 2% comment lines.

I removed all the code associated with the editor program, so subtract about 15% from the original.

I would guess that I have added about 10,000 lines of comments - with 60 to 70% of that spacing for legibility.

Another guess is that I have added new routines composed of 15,000 lines. I know that the new save and restore game routines are 6,000 lines (brand new code). All of the new code is heavily documented 'in-line'. I write the in-line documentation first and then write the code to correspond.

The CWIF code for internet play was incomplete and we are replacing that: add 5,000 (a generous estimate, it should end up being smaller). Directx routines out, Indy10 rouintes in.

The interface is being expanded substantially. Adding new forms generates a lot of code for free (+20,000).

I still have to encode the PBEM system in accordance with the detailed design we developed in August-September of last year (+15,000).

I am in the process of rewriting the game engine (+15,000).

Then there is the AI opponent to code (+20,000).

Call it 200,000?





SamuraiProgrammer -> RE: When? (4/27/2006 8:19:18 PM)

As Bob Barker Would Say:

"Choose the closest to the correct amount without going over"

My guess in the 'pool' will be 278,000 lines.

Any other guesses?

Will Matrix fund this pool with a free game????? [:D]




wodin -> RE: When? (4/28/2006 3:05:36 AM)

When did you take up programming? How long did it take before you became proficient at it?

Thanks




Shannon V. OKeets -> RE: When? (4/28/2006 6:46:27 AM)

quote:

ORIGINAL: wodin

When did you take up programming? How long did it take before you became proficient at it?

Thanks


1968.

Who's proficient?

I was paid to learn Fortran (5 days). I started analyzing and modifying code on day 6.

I was a math major and a tournament chess player at the time, so thinking precisely and logically was already an obsession.




wodin -> RE: When? (4/28/2006 1:59:50 PM)

A natural talent then;)




Shannon V. OKeets -> RE: When? (5/1/2006 1:29:07 PM)

May 1, 2006 Status Report for Matrix Gamesí MWIF Forum

Accomplishments of April

Project Management
A target date of early fall 2006 is my best guess at this time. This is actually unchanged from last month, itís just that I realized my definition of summer is not in common usage. I am aiming for my birthday (late September).

Communications
A lot of product from Rob Armstrong last month. The alpine hexsides are completed and so are the rivers and lakes for the European portion of the map. Rob finished the revised straits hexsides and land attack arrows. He was making real good progress on the forts hexsides right up until the point his motherboard died. Is that why they call them motherboards? Working with his wifeís portable, Rob sent me several iterations of air units and they are now ready for production in mass (1243 air units are currently in the game plus another 40 or so are to be added from Cruisers in Flames and Convoys in Flames). Rob has sent me 100 so far that I am using to design the mass production system. By the way, Rob is working from a CD that Harry Rowland provided with the most current versions of the counter sheets.

I monitored all the threads in the MWIF World in Flames forum daily. Members of the forum continue to be helpful and supportive.

Beta testers have been working but would like me to correct some fatal bugs they keep running into. Thatís not quite my highest priority, though I worry about it frequently.

Dan Hatchen sent me some code for playing over the Internet. Dan is calling his modules NetPlay which seems like a fine name to me. I havenít had a chance to start adding them to the game yet (tomorrow?).

Roger Feed promises to finish converting the new counters from Cruisers in Flames and Convoys in Flames to a format I can immediately incorporate into MWIF. Soon I hope.

Claes Insulander, Patrice Forno, and Nils Andresen are working on the revised map for Scandinavia. The division of labor is that Patrice and Nils are defining the map and Claes will modify the MWIF data files. Patrice and Nils are done (I think - they keep buffing and polishing). Claes will be back from overseas travel May 1st and he should be able to finish the mods within a week, 2 at the most.

We now have 3 people working on writing descriptions for the naval units. Graham Dodge finished his writeups on the 57 HQ units. Quite informative, with 400 to 600 words per entry.

Mike Wethington has offered to edit the playerís manual. That makes him a warmly welcomed addition to the project team.

I remain in email contact with Chris Marinacci about how CWIF works.

I talked with David Heath about adding historical detail, sound effects, and music. More on that below.

Beta Testing
I uploaded version 1.00 last week. Because it is based on a SDI application architecture, I gave it a new version number (from 0. to 1.). CWIF, and MWIF up until this time, had been using MDI. A need for a more flexible interface was behind the decision for the change. Using SDI, I have complete control over what forms appear where, when, and how they respond to player actions. Previously, there were some constraints imposed by MDI.

As part of the changeover to SDI, I was able to insert an Opening Screen before the Start of Game screen. The opening screen comes up immediately and lets the player choose between starting a new game, running a tutorial, or restoring a saved game. The Start a New Game screen only appears if the player chooses option #1.

CWIF Conversion
I pulled 7000 lines of code out of the main routine when I made the conversion to SDI. My ongoing reduction project now has the main routine down to 11,000 lines of code (from an original 23,000). The difficulties I had with accessing the save and restore dialogs has been eliminated by this change too.

Included in that relocated code were the routines for Internet messaging. Working from the detailed design document I wrote back in September/October I have started adding all 456 message definitions for the game record log (presently Iím 20% done). These will eventually replace the messaging codes CWIF used (about 250). The increase in size is primarily because I want to record everything that happens during a game and give the player the ability to replay the game as part of after-action-reports. The message definitions form the central mechanism for the new game engine (more below).

Map and Units
I made all the changes to the map that Patrice had identified. To do so, I had to create some new codes for lakes and rivers that appear on the map but do not affect play. For example, there are tail ends of rivers and corners of lake hexsides that have to be drawn to make the rivers and lakes look complete. However, those little tidbits of rivers and lakes have no effect on movement or combat,

Air units are looking great. I need to play around with the names some more so they wrap around to the line below rather than overwriting the plane image or combat factors. When I reviewed how the air units were being presented, I completed the transformation I had started from colored rectangles for the combat factors to colored circles. For instance, tank busters have their tactical combat factors shown within a red circle. ATRs are within a white circle. Artillery are within gray circles, and so on.

Saved Games
At least one bug identified by the beta testers is caused by the restore game function. Rats!

Game Interface
A lot of changes with the addition of the opening screen and revision to the start of new game screen. Also of substantial importance is the separation of the detailed and global maps from the main window. They can now be repositioned and resized freely on the desktop. I took the unit information panel out of the main form too, transforming it from short and wide into a more squarish shape.

I reviewed and revised my inventory of forms in the game (95 is the current count). What I want to do is to tie each form into the sequence of play and then reexamine the purpose for the formís existence and whether there is any way to merge some of them so they arenít quite so numerous. That may be an unreasonable goal though because WIF has just so many little details and decisions built into it.

MWIF Game Engine
Coding this is underway. I am grinding through defining the 456 record types that correspond to the messages used by the game record log. I do about 40 a day, working on them when I need something that is less demanding mentally to work on. When they are all completed, I will started incorporating them into the code that plays the game. They will participate in writing out what has happened in the game to the game record log. Once that code has been tested and validated, then I will start using them for passing messages over the Internet.

Scenario Information
Nothing new here.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
As part of the new opening screen, I listed all the tutorials and wrote the branching logic for executing each tutorial. There is now substance behind those calls yet.

For the historical text, we will be using the research and written descriptions provided by forum members. You will have Graham Dodge to thank for everything you read about the air and HQ units. Others are writing about the naval units. We might do some of the land units too.

For historical video footage, David Heath has told me to simply provide him with a list of what I would like and how long it should run for. He gave me the same instructions for the sound effects and music (OGG format for both of those). So, my task is to go back to the suggestions the forum members made earlier for all of these and start listing exactly what we want to have in the game. I will be asking the forum members to review and critique those lists - and hopefully help flesh them out.

I am laying out the sequence of play in detail. It is a real monster that contains almost 100 unique parts. Ideally I will end up with something the players can call up to see where they are within the sequence of play, what is going to happen next, etc.. I want to integrate it into the tutorials for teaching the game to newcomers to WIF. Hopefully I can link it to the help system too, so the players can use it for context sensitive help.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Work on this has been in hiatus because I have been focusing heavily on the graphics and internet play.

Other
Our annual barbershop show is this coming weekend. Hey, I know almost all the notes and words to the music! Iíll order a new computer today: 3.8 GHz with 2 GB of main memory. A need for speed.

====================================================================
April summary: solid progress on the graphics, a transformed application design, and a start on coding the new Internet routines. Not bad. [But man, these months fly by fast!]
====================================================================


Tasks for May

Communications
Continue monitoring the forum threads.

Beta Testing
Fix enough of the bugs so the beta testers can test Internet play when that code is written.

Map and Units
Finish the high resolution counters for all the air and naval units. Including the units from Cruisers in Flames and Convoys in Flames is to be done at the same time. [High resolution counters for the land units are already completed.] Work with Claes on installing the revised Scandinavian portion of the map.

CWIF Conversion
Thoroughly test the new random number generator (this task is at the bottom of the pile and I never get to it). Start cutting over from CWIFís messaging system to the game record log system.

Game Interface
Add bidding capability to the Start of Game Form so the beta testers can play one-on-one over the internet. Have Rob start work on the theme and color scheme for the player interface. That will involved the use of skins primarily.

MWIF Game Engine
Continue work on the new MWIF Game Engine.

Software Development Tools
Develop a test program for Internet communications using Indy10 (multiple players over the Internet).

Multiplayer Internet
Incorporate the Indy10 code for the new design for the multiplayer system into MWIF. This requires replacing the CWIF calls to DirectPlay.

AI Opponent
Finish defining the relationship between the air, naval, and land unit values. Continue working on defining the value of individual hexes and a line of hexes (i.e., a front line).

Historical Detail, Animations, and Sound
Start listing all the places the program will use historical video footage, sound, and music. Begin fleshing out the content for the first half dozen tutorials with advice from forum members.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
Set up forms dedicated to viewing the sequence of play, so they can be used later as an index/table of contents into the context sensitive help files.

Other
Install the new computer.
================================================================
May summary: Complete all the high resolution counters and get a rudimentary operational capability for Internet play. The game record log should receive a lot of attention too.
================================================================




morkin -> RE: When? (5/1/2006 1:59:23 PM)

I hate Hawaii being in another time zone causing me to get monthly reports on 2nd [:@] Shannon should seriously consider moving slightly west of the date line. [:(]




tigercub -> RE: When? (5/2/2006 12:20:17 PM)

Steve one question, is your birthday early or late september! lol good work.




wodin -> RE: When? (5/2/2006 3:53:36 PM)

Thanks for the update.




npilgaard -> RE: When? (5/3/2006 9:36:47 PM)

These detailed status reports are very informative - thanks for sharing the info. Very nice to be able to follow the prgress month by month.

Excellent work indeed - thanks for the effort!

Regards
Nikolaj




EZPkins -> RE: When? (5/30/2006 12:56:04 AM)

Are we there yet?




Yohan -> RE: When? (5/30/2006 4:24:06 AM)

Where yet?  [:D]




Froonp -> RE: When? (5/30/2006 12:14:43 PM)

Right here, isn't it ?




Shannon V. OKeets -> RE: When? (5/31/2006 1:07:20 PM)


June 1, 2006 Status Report for Matrix Gamesí MWIF Forum


Accomplishments of May


Project Management

With regret, I estimate that the graphics wonít be completed until September. After they are done, time will be needed to test the code with them all included. Once the program code is finalized (always a terrifying decision), Matrix Games will need 4-6 weeks at the back end to make the game ready for release, which is quite reasonable. For one of the games I did in the mid-1980's the company producing the game took 8 months after I had finished the code to release it. Argh! A little calculation leaves me looking at December as a release date.

Communications

Rob Armstrong has finished 85% of the bitmaps for the air and naval units. I currently have 1900 bitmaps for individual units out of roughly 2200 that will be included with the final product.

I monitored all the threads in the MWIF World in Flames forum daily. Members of the forum are helpful and supportive.

Beta testers continue working but would like me to correct fatal bugs they keep running into. Thatís not my highest priority, though I corrected a few of them.


Dan Hatchen and I have scheduled the middle of June for integrating his NetPlay code into MWIF proper.
Claes Insulander has made several passes at encoding the changes to the Scandinavia map worked out by Patrice Forno and Nils Andresen. His final version is expected to be done the first week of June.


Patrice took the work he had done, with help from Nils, for modifying the China map and posted it to the MWIF forum for review. The forum members gave this a very serious critique with over 150 posts and 1000 hits within the first 72 hours.


Terje and Fred Zimmerman have written descriptions for most of the naval units. Since there are over 800 named naval units, that is a lot of work. They expect to complete them all in June (!?).

Mike Wethington and I have scheduled mid-June for making a preliminary pass on the Playerís Manual. At Mikeís suggestion I purchased HyperSnap 6 - for creating better screen shots for display on the forum? No, in reality, it is for creating nice looking screen shots for inclusion in the Playerís Manual.

I remain in occasional email contact with Chris Marinacci.

Beta Testing

I uploaded versions 1.01 and 1.02 during May. Version 1.01 included massive changes to the units, which are described in more detail below. It also contained modified definitions of the "short cut keystrokes". For example, <Ctrl> L loads a saved game. In version 1.02 the primary change was a major redesign of the unit review form. This form lets the player look at all the units in the game. You can think of it as a way to examine the counter sheets. As you scroll over each unitís thumbnail bitmap, the corresponding highest level of zoom bitmap is displayed along with the text writeup for the air and HQ units (all 600 provided by Greyshaft). The addition of the large bitmap and the text descriptions was the big change. The text descriptions for all the units are in simple *.txt files, so players will be able to make changes to these files in their personal copy of the game.

Map and Units

The map revisions for Scandinavia are being encoded and those for China are undergoing review and improvement in the MWIF forum. The European portion of the map is finished except for the Qattara Depression. Rob has sent those bitmaps to me, but I havenít gotten around to incorporating them into the map yet.

The units received most of my attention this past month. I added all the units from Cruisers in Flames and Convoys in Flames and generally tidied up the unit files. I had had a list of corrections that Patrice sent me in August, that I finally got around to making them all. There are about 2 dozen land units still missing (e.g., Chinese warlords), but that is small potatoes. As part of including the units from the 2 WIF add-ons, I created new unit types for ASW warfare, specialized submarines, and auxiliary cruisers (raiders). The number of different unit types in MWIF is now up to 70.

Placing the bitmap image correctly within the frame is a pain. There are variations due to: the original artwork, the transformation of that artwork to bitmap images by Rob, the different unit types, and (most annoying) the names for the units. I added the names to the counters for all the air and naval units which required some of them to have a second version of their name with delimiters for how it should be placed on the counter. In some cases there are four segments to an air unitís name: its official name (2 pieces) and its "also known as" name (2 pieces). Each piece has an assigned location on the counter. And, of course, that is different for each type of air unit (fighter, bomber, naval air, air transport, carrier based air). Designing a general purpose system for all of that took some time.

Then there is the fact that the naming of air units differs by country and even by branch of service within a country. Patrice sent me detailed rules about hyphens and blanks for how to write BF 109G6 Gustav and Macchi C.202 Folgore, for example. This seems like really trivial stuff, but if I get it wrong, there are players who will be annoyed by it forever. And it isnít that hard to get it right - just a little extra effort.

For Commonwealth member nations and all minor countries, I added the 3 letter abbreviations to the air and naval counters (e.g., CAN, NZL, GRE). This had already been done for the land units.

There are a lot of what I call generic naval units in the game. For example, the bitmap images for generic convoys, amphibious units, naval transports, and submarines are identical. Or at least they are within each country. I have 76 bitmaps that are not assigned to specific counters, but rather to unit types (by nationality). This lets the player create additional convoys and the program is able to assign a bitmap image to it. The whole arrangement required separate code from what is used for most of the unit bitmaps.

As part of this general review and spiffing-up of the units, I renumbered them all so the air units are between 1 and 2000, the land units between 2001 and 4000, the naval units between 4001 and 6000, and the special units between 60001 and 8000.

Lastly, I finally caved in and added rounded corners and shadows for the units. In the process of doing that I came up with an improved way to depict the status indicators. Both the shadowing and the status indicators need to be improved graphically and Iíll have Rob help out on that once he finishes the rest of the unit bitmaps. For status indicators CWIF used a row of contiguous rectangles across the top of the unit, which was both bland and hard to interpret. After some discussion with forum members I have now implemented 7 separate circles as the status indicators, with the 3 most important ones placed on the top of the unit (movement, disruption, and supply) and the 4 that are useful at times, but only infrequently, on the left side (combat, movement/combat, transportation, and damaged naval units).


What I gain by separating them is twofold: (1) the indicators only appear when there is something of interest, and (2) the position of the indicator conveys almost as much information as its color code. For example, most of the time a unit will have no status indicators at all. That makes for a cleaner display and adds emphasis for when they do appear. Similarly, a couple of the indicators are binary: yes/no (disrupted and damaged). More detail is provided by the non-binary supply and transportation indicators. The former only lights up when there is a problem with supply. The later only lights up when one unit in the hex is transporting another. Within each of those, however, color codes provide more specifics as to the unitís status.

What I have now are units that look good and are named as accurately as I could achieve. It is quite amazing to go through all 3000+ units in the game and see the individual high resolution counters. Rarely do 2 of them look alike. If anyone is interested, I am looking for someone to do write ups on the non-HQ land units.


Internet - NetPlay

I diagramed how the NetPlay code relates to the main MWIF program and sent those diagrams over to Dan Hatchen for review. After a couple of iterations we worked that all out. The focal point of our discussion was when one side (e.g., the Axis) should send information about decisions to the other side.

Let me explain the problem here, for it is rather interesting from a playerís point of view. In over the board play, a player will move a bunch of his pieces about on the board while the other player watches. During the course of that activity, the player might take a move back, either the one he just made or perhaps one he made several minutes ago. Usually this is permitted by his opponent, provided something consequential did not happen in the meantime. Often the most serious consideration is whether the player can remember (and his opponent agree) as to where each piece was at the start of the turn.

Now in MWIF, the program will know precisely where every unit started and also know without any doubt whether something consequential occurred. So, the issue now becomes one of communicating information. The internet portion of MWIF could do either (A) let everyone see everything that everyone does, or (B) limit what is shown to the opposing side while letting players on the same side see what everybody on their side is doing. I favor the latter as a way of enabling the players to plan and coordinate their moves. Indeed, I would like to expand on it a little - but not a lot - so that they could point out to players on their side moves they intend to do in future turns.

Internally, when a player moves a unit several hexes, the game records each hex in the game record log. That is, each hex moved has an entry #. Once the player places the unit in its final hex, the game sends the whole list of hexes it traversed over to the other players on his side. This is called a transaction and has an associated transaction #. When all the players on one side have completed moving their units, the program will send all the transactions across to the players on the opposing side. This is called interside communication and has an IC# assigned to it.

Built into the system is the ability for players to take back moves up until the point that a IC is sent to the other side. With accompanying text messages between players on the same side, coordinating moves shouldnít be a big problem. The possibilities for improving this subsystem for intraside communication, so the players can work out operational plans and long term strategies, is pretty much endless. Emphatically, I do not intend to be subsumed into the abyss of designing and coding anything elaborate for that.


Game Interface

Besides the revised unit form described above, I made some more changes to the Start New Game form. It is now possible to have multiple players play a game and assign them which major power groups they are playing (e.g., Japan/Italy). All that is missing is the bidding system for assigning players. CWIF had both of these features, but I have integrated the former into the main Start New Game form. The latter will eventually get a separate form but I am waiting on the Internet code before designing and coding it. Thatís because the bidding system will only be used when playing over the Internet.

CWIF Conversion

I redid the Pascal component for the data concerning Players. This was to make it satisfy the needs for player data that Dan Hatchen listed for his NetPlay code.

I removed the title bars from some of the forms. That is the topmost bar that appears in almost all Windows applications. It contains the title and also the minimize, maximize, and close icons. By removing the title bars, the forms use less screen real estate which makes more of the map visible when using those forms. Of course, the functionality provided by the title bar has to be included in the form elsewhere (e.g., a way to close the form).

MWIF Game Engine

I have completed 3/4rds of the record definitions that correspond to the messages used by the game record log. They are tedious to do, and I get bored with doing them quickly. So I whittle away at it daily. When I get within striking distance of completing them, Iíll make a final push and close the book on that task. Once they are all completed, I will started incorporating them into the code that plays the game. They will be used when writing out what has happened in the game to the game record log. After that code has been tested and validated, I will start using them for passing messages over the Internet.


Saved Games

There are still a couple of lingering problems here that I need to fix.

Scenario Information

Nothing new here.


Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant

I posted a request for advice/suggestions for the first two tutorials on the MWIF forum. A few responses but not a whole lot of interest. I envision the introductory tutorials containing two panels: left and right. The left panel, a screen shot from a game in progress, would be almost square and the right panel, text describing the screen shot, more like a column. Each screen shot will describe a game element with a tease about other game elements that are described in the next couple of screen shots. Ideally this design will keep the player reading by generating questions that can only be answered by reading the next item in the tutorial, or by going on to the subsequent tutorial. Eliminating boredom is crucial for the tutorials to provide a valuable contribution to the playerís enjoyment of the product.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Work on this has been in hiatus because I have been focusing heavily on the units, interface, and internet play.


Other

I installed my new computer: Gateway, 3.8 GHz, 2GB RAM, and a second 19" flat screen monitor. The new monitor really made the old 19" flat screen look shabby, though they should be the same. The old one is from 2003 and it has a markedly yellow tint to its colors. The new one has whiter whites and brighter brights.


====================================================================
May summary: High resolution counters are almost done for all the units, which includes all the additional units and unit types from Cruisers in Flames and Convoys in Flames. Not enough progress on the Internet code or the revised game engine.
====================================================================

Tasks for June


Communications

Continue monitoring the forum threads.

Beta Testing

Fix enough of the bugs so the beta testers can test Internet play when that code is written.

Map and Units

Finish the high resolution counters for all the air and naval units. Create a preliminary design for all the medium and low resolution counters. Install Claesí data files for the revised Scandinavian portion of the map. Start work on modifying the data files for the revised China map.


CWIF Conversion

Thoroughly test the new random number generator (this task is at the bottom of the pile and I never get to it). Start cutting over from CWIFís messaging system to the game record log system.

Game Interface

Add bidding capability to the Start of Game Form so the beta testers can play one-on-one over the internet. Have Rob start work on the theme and color scheme for the player interface. That will involved the use of skins primarily.

Redesign of MWIF Game Engine

Continue work on the new MWIF Game Engine.

Software Development Tools

Develop a test program for Internet communications using Indy10 (multiple players over the Internet).


Multiplayer Internet

Incorporate the Indy10 code for the new design for the multiplayer system into MWIF. This requires replacing the CWIF calls to DirectPlay.

AI Opponent

Finish defining the relationship between the air, naval, and land unit values. Continue working on defining the value of individual hexes and a line of hexes (i.e., a front line).


Historical Detail, Animations, and Sound

Start listing all the places the program will use historical video footage, sound, and music. Begin fleshing out the content for the first half dozen tutorials with advice from forum members.

Help System, Tutorials, and AI Assistant
Set up forms dedicated to viewing the sequence of play, so they can be used later as an index/table of contents into the context sensitive help files.

Other

40 minute walk every day.

================================================================
June summary: Make the system for playing over the Internet work. Build on the work for the high resolution counters to create their medium and low resolution counterparts. Continue with creative cartography.
================================================================




christo -> RE: When? (6/1/2006 7:58:40 AM)



With regret, I estimate that the graphics wonít be completed until September. ...... Argh! A little calculation leaves me looking at December as a release date.

[:(]

Buggar!
Oh well, guess this means that I can put it on the christmas shopping list.




Borger Borgersen -> RE: When? (6/1/2006 11:19:04 AM)

quote:

ORIGINAL: christo

With regret, I estimate that the graphics won't be completed until September. ...... Argh! A little calculation leaves me looking at December as a release date.

[:(]

Buggar!
Oh well, guess this means that I can put it on the christmas shopping list.


We have waited more than 10 years for this game so a few more months extra doesn't really matter.

It's more important than the game is released when it's ready and not rushed prematurely to the market to reach the Christmas sales like for example other great games did (like Civ4).

Things take always longer time than expected. Shannon OKeets has barely started the work on the AI. It would certainly take longer time than a few weeks to complete. MWIF is a very complex game and making a useful AI for MWIF is a major task indeed. Playtesting will also take a considerable amount of time. I've been working myself in development of computer programs and to find necessary time for Q&A is always underestimated. The bugs have a nasty habit of hiding when we try to look for them. [:D]

Shannon is doing wonderful work with MWIF so I think we should have the patience to wait until this great game is finally finished. If it's released before Christmas then it's great, but if it's released early next year then I would be happy too. We can constantly read regularly the progress report for MWIF. THAT would give us the patience to wait till the game is finished. [:)]

On the other hand it's great that Shannon is really dedicated to release MWIF late this year. A project with such focus has a much better chance to be finished on time. So far I'm impressed how well he has managed to keep his time schedule.




Froonp -> RE: When? (6/1/2006 11:41:10 AM)

I agree with Borger Borgersen.
I do not want the game rushed neither, and I hope playtesting will be long and complete.
But I'm curious as to why Steve wrote this :

quote:

With regret, I estimate that the graphics won't be completed until September.


And I'm surprised too, because I felt graphics were quickly advancing those last days.




Shannon V. OKeets -> RE: When? (6/1/2006 12:02:08 PM)

quote:

ORIGINAL: Froonp
I agree with Borger Borgersen.
I do not want the game rushed neither, and I hope playtesting will be long and complete.
But I'm curious as to why Steve wrote this :

quote:

With regret, I estimate that the graphics won't be completed until September.


And I'm surprised too, because I felt graphics were quickly advancing those last days.


Graphics on the units has progressed nicely the last 6 weeks.

However, graphics work that remains to be done includes:

- the remaining unit bitmaps (counter sheets 29, 30, 36, 38)

- odds and ends unit bitmaps (for medium resolution, death heads, non-para ATRs)

- a few more details for the basic map (forts, weather)

- a color scheme and skins for the player interface (buttons, forms, labels, fonts)

- bitmaps of the coastal hexes for the rest of world (outside of Europe)

- river overlays for the rest of the world (outside of Europe)

- splash screen(s) for game start up

- cover, CD, and box art (et al)

The additional map bitmaps are the big task - as we have known from the beginning.




Neilster -> RE: When? (6/1/2006 12:52:34 PM)

I didn't expect anything before at least the end of the year. It seems to be a law of the universe that any new task, whether it's painting the bathroom or a major piece of software engineering, takes heaps longer than first estimated.

Actually it suits me. I was dreading what a mid-year MWiF release was going to do to my final semester of university [:(] A bit of a bummer for all you people with time on your hands though. Oh well, Conquest of the Aegean will be out soon.

Cheers, Neilster




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