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A “Quick Update, Moving Right Along…, Health, Writing, Developer’s Diary 1, Other Projects

A “Quick Update”
Meredith asked me today how things where going… and I kind of shrugged and gave a non-committal answer of “good and bad” basically.
So, I thought I’d sit down and update this, since it’s been neglected for a little bit 🙂
Moving Right Along…
First thing to update the world (well, my circle of friends I let read about my life at least) is that I’m moving back to the country.
Back to the same house I grew up in.  No shit.
However, I’m not renting the place – I’m just the roommate.  Brandon is renting the old place, with the idea of potentially purchasing it later.  He’s never lived out in the country, so I’m not sure if he’s really going to like it as much as he thinks he is, but living in the country is one of his dreams.  And of course, it’s one of mine.
The previous tennant has let the gardens get overgrown with trees and weeds, and two of the buildings need to be torn down now, and the mess they left behind has to be cleaned up.
But I’ll be back “home” again, and I’m pretty certain that’s my last stop before I buy my own place out in the country.
Meredith and Tammy both pointed out how much history there is there, good and bad (of course, the two pointed out much different facets of that 🙂  it should be interesting.
Heath
I had fallen off of the workout wagon for a while.  Three things happened, along with getting a little lazy.  First, I moved, which threw a whole new set of twists into working out – kids around, an asshole roommate (asshole, in this case, used from The Story of Gamer Zone:  “The Plumber is a griefer and an asshole.”  As in, he’s friend who’s assholeness makes him a friend of mine.)  Let’s face it – working out is hard enough without people making fun of the situation. 
When I started working out again, I discovered the kids around weren’t a problem – they liked to hang around while I work out and watch.  Kinda funny, but hell, anything I do, Joe (they youngest) always seems to want to be around because it’s interesting.  
The asshole roommate?  Well, I fixed his little wagon.  I told him point blank – every time he makes fun of how I work out, I’ll make fun of his fat ass for NOT working out.  Doesn’t matter if what I’m doing is different or even silly, I’m getting off my ass and doing something.  He’s just setting at the computer.  The first time I fired back a full bore “fatass” comment, he quit saying much of anything about my workout routine. 🙂  Problem solved.
I had changed my workout routine, looking to do something different.  I wanted to do some Yoga and some Tai Chi.  OK, plan fail.  
Using DDR (StepMania, actually) ends up working a hell of lot better for me in the long term.  Gains in ability are easily quantifable (performance is graded).  I’m now routinely doing things like Heavy songs that are 6 or 7 footers (“feet” are the gage of how hard a song is, along with which setting – Beginner, Light, Standard, Heavy, and ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE that only exists for a few custom songs.) In fact, somewhere along the way, I managed to learn some new tricks that allowed me to pull off stuff I thought I’d never do.  I still can’t do the top end songs, but I can move damned near as fast as those mall rats that used to play at Gamer Zone.  Hell, I honestly impress myself.
When I moved, both pads had given up the ghost.  I finally got one repaired, and reformatted and re-setup the machine that runs DDR for me.  Between the two things, I managed to get it up and rolling again.  
Third, I had to re-think a lot about my workout.  I really like the upper body workout, but there were more and more days where I was coming out with a sore back, sore knees, or sore ankles.  
I happened to read some recent research on streaching (which boils down to you can build muscle just streching, which might solve the lower body issue), and laid out a new routine.  Day one is upper body, day two is lower body (duh), and abs / core are incorporated both days, and DDR as cardio is on both days.  
Lower body is all streching.  This works out VERY well – I no longer have back pain, and the process also removed the ankle and knee problems I was experienced (plus, well, I learned how to land more lightly.  It’s not that I don’t jump as high, it’s just a matter of a more subtle landing that allows the impact to be absorbed along more of my body at once.  Funny part, I often make less noise when I land for a double (two arrows at once) or a gallop (two steps extremely close together, one on each foot) than I do for a standard single step now.)
Sadly, two months without working out routinely took it’s toll.  I dropped weight – I went down to 203 to 204 lbs most days (Cool – down from my original 225 – 230 range when I started working out at Docs), but I dropped a lot of muscle mass quickly (unfortunate proof that I am indeed getting older), and got soft around the middle.  I couldn’t wear the shirts I had grown to like anymore 🙁  After the first workout, I could wear the shirts again – aparently that was mostly psychological.
It’s been 12 days since I started working out again, and I’m 12 for 12 – my plan is to see if I can push for 30 for 30 on workouts, never missing a day for a month.  
I don’t look quite as good as I did when I was working out a Doc’s yet, but I’m quickly regaining muscle and slimming.  Now for the funny part – I’m putting on a bit over 1/2 a pound per day – I’m up to 211.  I don’t mind, just as long as it’s muscle 🙂
My goal for next week?  On the 23rd I’ve got a Halloween party to go to (right now, I have a Birthday to go to on the 23rd, a Halloween party the evening of the 23rd, a Halloween party on the 30th, and a Halloween party on the 31st.  That’s so far.)  I’m pulling out the harley boots, the leather jacket, and a little makeup work to be the Terminator again.  If I can just flatten that stomach just a little more over the next week, I’ll look pretty decent doing it.  Otherwise, well, I’ll look like a fat moron with metal on his face 🙂
Writing
Muse came to a standstill for a while.   I started writing a fight… and had the hardest time finishing it.  Too much of it came from real life – and it just dregged up stuff I thought was so completely stupid.  And not only did I have to have the fight in there, I had to have it resolved properly.
I’d open Muse.  I’d read what I wrote.  Then I’d find some stupid asinine thing to do until it was time to quit writing for the night.  It took nearly 15 days to write three pages.  After that, it’s gone back to it’s original breakneck writing pace.  But it’s pretty disturbing that I can be so easily tripped up, emotionally, by a scene.
Developer’s Diary 1
Something I used to do during game development was Developer’s Diary entries.  With the Trade Wars style game, I decided I wanted to toil in the dark for awhile, rather than do my usual entries on places like GarageGames.  When it hits beta, I’ll probably move over there.
For now though, I’m probably going to keep my developer’s diary on here.  
Progress on it is pretty cool.  Right now, it will generate a 1,000,000 sector galaxy.  If you remember, Trade Wars was caped at 3,000, then later upped to 5,000 sectors.  
There are 28 planet types, 12 star types (and yes, planet and star types both matter a lot in the game).  The “Big Bang” works pretty well, though I wrote it in PHP – now I’m going to remove all the PHP programming I did on the server, and move it to an offline generator.  Right now, it’s EXTREMELY hard on the server when I run the big bang – because of all the passes it takes to create the universe (build the stars, then create “faction” warp routes, then create the random warp routes, then planets, then ports, then go back and do some checking on it all) it takes about 12 million queries to create the universe, and that doesn’t even create the caches for sectors (part of the way I can pull off having such a large universe – it keeps track of when the last time someone looked at a sector.  All the resources in that sector are “frozen” and don’t generate anything new until the next time a player looks at that sector.  Then it calculates how much should have been generated in products, etc. between those two times.  The only exception is alien faction planets, and alien ships, who both move on a “tick” of five minutes unless a player interacts with them.)
I’ve been working DreamHost to make sure I can scale the game quickly if there happens to be a large influx of players.  I can set up new galaxies in on new Private Servers at the rate of about one every two days for Private Servers, and the theoretical maximum for galaxies per PS is currently unknown, but I believe it’s going to be around 5 to 6, based on what I’ve seen so far.  
They’ve thrown in some input on how to load balance it a bit, and how to pull of the “push” system that I’ve been wanting so badly (Black Nova Traders, and pretty much ever web based non-flash game either has to poll the server continuously, or you don’t get to see when a new person enters the sector with you until you refresh.  In BNT, it was possible to have your ship destroyed and not even know it until after you made your next move!!!)
The design is like nothing I’ve ever heard of for a PHP + HTML + JavaScript + MySQL based game.  This shit is advanced as hell, but will run on IE, FireFox, Safari, etc., etc., etc.  And most importantly, it will also run on iPhones and Android based phones (or any phone that uses a full subset of WebKit rendering) perfectly – no need for a native client.
But there will be native clients for Mac OS X, Windows, iPhone, and probably Android at some point.  I’ll sell those separately from the subscription – for a reason.  Players who use them will get a leg up on non-client players 🙂
And of course it’s subscription based, with a free demo mode where players can play (or, just as important, players who’s account has lapsed can continue to at least check on the game progress, and get a few turns, but not the whole number of turns allowed for subscription players.)  I’m still setting the subscription price – probably $2.50 for a “light” membership, and $5.00 for a premium membership.  I’ll cover why and what the options are next time.
So what the hell am I going to call this thing?  Well… right now it’s working title is “Trader’s Universe”.  A tip of the hat to Trade Wars, but also points out an undocumented feature.  I’ll tell you, but you’ll have to keep it quiet… 🙂
Each galaxy is different – both in size, scope, layout, and what is contained in them.  But they don’t stand alone.  Unlike Trade Wars, where every sector is linked by warps, there are sectors that aren’t linked together by anything.  Eventually, extremely high end players can learn the tech to create warps – which are horendously expensive to create, resource wise (something I thought was a mistake in BNT), but linking into those back water unlinked sectors can result in a lot of surprises.  Cultures that don’t have access to the rest of the galaxy for instance (most of which will be nasty ass mega enemies) and Galaxy Warps.
Galaxy Warps change everything.  Once you discover one, if you use it, you’re found a way to move from one galaxy to the next – you don’t know what the destination is, and it’s possible you might never find your way back home!  This turns the galaxies from being stand alone games, and ties them together in a way no Trade Wars clone has ever done – it’s a game that spans an entire universe now.  The more players, and the more active galaxies I create to support those players, the larger the entire game universe becomes, and the more “interesting” it becomes.
And there’s a second catch to the Galaxy Warps. Not only do you not know if they are one-way, they may change over time.  It might take you to a different galaxy the next time you use it (and every player after you that uses it.)  This allows me to “drain” a particular galaxy of high level players, and populate others.
There’s also some other complexities here, like private galaxies (these are galaxies that players can pay for, and only let them and their friends play in them), free galaxies (for those who don’t become subscribers, they are always free to play in the free galaxies), beta galaxies (for testing out new rules), etc.  The design allows for… well, breaking new ground in the way MMO’s play.
Right now I’m working on graphics – sectors display the sun, and retrieves text for things like ports, planets, warps, etc.  Fortunately, I only have to create graphics once, and part of the graphic stuff is procedural, so not all of it is done by hand even.  However, when I start writing the desktop and mobile non-web clients, I’m going to have a heck of a lot of fun putting in all the effects and such that I don’t get to do on the web based version. 🙂
Originally I was going to write the code for ships and move around an empty galaxy to get things up and running piece by piece.  I ended up changing my mind – instead I created the galaxies first, then went around and created the graphical displays, then I’ll put the ships in.  It’s more fun this way – I’ll now have a populated galaxy to explore while I test out rules for ship movement and combat.  Much more fun! 🙂
One more thing:  Right now it’s called “Trader’s Universe”, but that’s a working title.  I don’t know what the final title will be.  But I’m trying to get the rights to use the name from the current trademark holder.  If I do?  Then it’s going to probably be “Trade Wars Universe”
Other Projects
I’m quoting quite a bit of stuff, and this time around it looks like it’s stuff I’m actually going to get.  The group I did a pro bono project for are really really excited about what I’m planning for the for-pay portion of the project I’ve sold them on – an online system for tracking inventory and showing it as an attached part of the website (that’s quote 1).  Then an iPhone app that makes them the first business of their type to put their inventory online as an iPhone native app (that’s quote #2).  And finally, a trip to New York to do an on-site business analysis that will tie the inventory system with the warehouse as a fully integrated process including barcode scanners and such.  (That’s #3).  Number 1 is a sure thing now (IE, they are waiting for the price, and told me what “acceptable price” will be :-), number 2 is a really good chance, and number 3 is the least likely.
Then I’m turning Kenosha, WI into a running income stream.  Rather than the burst income problems I’ve got with them right now, I’m going to be charging them twice a month, with each bill ranging from $800 to $1100 per billing.  So roughly, around $24k / year, charged out… well, kind of as if I had a real job.  Except I don’t work many hours 🙂  There still may be a rare trip up there, but right now they aren’t getting that much value from it, in my opinion, because of the “crunch” the projects cause in their schedules and how much stuff they miss setting up for me when I get there (you know, like things to do).
This would finally get me “over the hump”.
Now, when you start adding this all together… an MMO, a running project I get paid from frequently, and the books… you know what, things are starting to look very bright finally 🙂  Add to it slowly improving my health, looking better, moving back into the country, and all that sort of stuff… well, life is starting to look pretty damned good, I suppose.  I’ve still got past sins to pay for in the form of bills, but with some solid footing, I can finally put those to rest.  Ahh.  I’d be on even keel finally, no debts, no worries.  

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