Old blog posts from 2009

12th of December

The FSF said mostly what I'd already posted, so sfall now has a sourceforge project, and 2.1 is out. I've also replaced the raw sslc download with a modders pack, which includes a little bit more documentation and some example scripts.

In other news, fomm is up to 0.10.2, and is back out of beta. There's been some improvements to the bsa browser, which can now open fallout 2 dat's along with morrowind/oblivion/fallout 3 bsa's, and to the save game list, which now lets you export a load order file that matches what mods were in use at the time the save was made.

5th of December

Right, here's the opinions of someone else who knows what they're talking about:*

I don't want take sfall officially closed source anyway, so my plan is to GPL sfall once I've given the other contributors enough time to object. I'll probably be removing the eax code though, as I doubt I can get permission to GPL that,** after which I'll probably upload it to sourceforge so the other contributors can get proper commit access rather than having to email me code all the time. With me sorted out, that just leaves interplay. I don't want to be committal here partly because we only have second hand information to go on as to what interplay has actually done, and partly because there's too much Legal involved, but here's my resident advisor's first thoughts.

Furthermore, it was mentioned on NMA that interplay would need Bethesda's permission to include sfall on their cd anyway, even if no GPL issues were involved. Given that Bethesda is in the middle of suing them, I think it's fair to say that they never got it.

*Only friendly advice from a legally minded friend, not official legal advice, so this isn't definitive. I'd actually fired off an e-mail to the FSF before he chimed in, so they may offer a different view.

**To the best of my knowledge, no-one has ever used it, so no great loss there.

4th of December (attempt 2)

Meh, I feel stupid now. T'was nothing to do with mge; it's the upscaling filters that Dream contributed. Given that I haven't used them since Mash released the first version of the hi-res patch I'd completely forgotten they existed. They are indeed GPL though, (from 3 different sources, ScummVM being the only one which I've heard of,) so no getting out of that one. That's rather irritating; when I was working on the multiplayer support,* I specifically went out of my way to write my own screen compression routine, even though dosbox had a perfectly good one, because the dosbox one was GPL. I could have just used it and saved myself the trouble. :(

In any case, thanks to interplay, cleaning this up isn't going to be a simple case of slapping some comments at the top of the files and reuploading the source code, so downloads are staying down for now. It is looking rather like sfall has been GPL since version v1.17 though. Goodness knows what that means for interplay and their distribution of it; I've been reading through the GPL FAQ and it looks like because of the way sfall interacts with fallout the GPL is incompatible with it anyway. Time to delegate to someone who actually knows what they're talking about...

*Quick progress report; for reason's I've yet to fathom the force_graphics_reset script function appears to clear up the showstopping crash bug it causes. Still need a little more testing to make sure I'm not imagining things, but it's looking hopeful.

4th of December

Firstly, fomm is up to 0.10.1, the major bump being due to my VS2005 -> VS2008 switchover more than anything else.* It now contains FOLOT functionality, using the BOSS-F masterlist. (Or load order template, as fomm refers to it.)

Next, anyone here looking for sfall might have noticed that it's not here any more. Since the interplay thing I've been injecting extra text into the credits to compensate for their stripping out of the external credits/readme file, and took down the source code download to make it slightly less trivial for them to remove. However yesterday I had quite a polite message that since sfall includes gpl'd code then sfall should come under it too, and I don't have the right to withhold the source. I'm pretty sure that it doesn't,** but since there's so much 3rd party code in there I want to double check^. It's probably just someone being confused by mge's svn logs, which lists Shon as the one who committed the code that sfall uses, but that's only because he was the one that migrated the code to sourceforge rather than because he wrote the file in question.

*Which also effects everything else I compile, so I wont be making win9x compatible versions of anything any more.

**Quick audit off the top of my head; there's code snippets from obse, which iirc didn't have a formal licence, more code from an obse plugin, which again didn't have any, code from mge, which is gpl but since I was the original author doesn't really count, code from the fallout exe patch, which iirc was freely reusable, and then code from 9 people that was submitted directly for inclusion but which I have no reason to believe contained anything infectious.

^I could just put the source back up and pretend like nothing happened, but I'd rather be certain, because if there isn't gpl code in there then I'd be doing it for nothing, and if there is then sfall has always been gpl'd, and interplay are also in breech of it. (And, furthermore, because of the way they bundled sfall, fallout2.exe also becomes infected. Don't you just love viral licences?)

14th of November

The more active hands I left fomm in seem to have turned out to be only as active as mine, so I've made a 0.9.17 release to clean up the most important issues; the lack-of-instructions left behind when sourceforges wikispaces closed, mothership zeta support, and a couple of other less commonly encountered bugs. Zumbs has also written 7 useful tutorials for fomm that can be found here, related to the use of fomods and scripting.

25th of October

sfall is up to 2.0, the major version number bump being due to a few big additions (large tiles, some ai stuff, multiplayer support*,) and the fact that 49 was a big enough number already. My summoner mod has also had an update, and is now complete enough to have its own spot in my list'o'mods. There are still glitches at high resolutions, but it's playable. There's also a fix to the original game code that would crash it on certain processors running at >4GHz, options to modify some interaction distances and camera zoom range, access to the scripting console,** and an option to speed up gameplay.

Some more information on the interplay/sfall thing: A couple of other distributions have turned up which include it, including newer trilogy box sets. These include sfall v1.42 and killaps patch as optional extras in the installer, without credits and apparently with the readme's stripped out too. This version is one of the ones that was triggering windows explorer hangs, which would have been considerably more fun if it had effected english versions of windows.

*Disclaimer: It sucks.

**There's a slight problem with modding a game which has almost^ no fan community whatsoever, where all the forums have been shut down and barely anyone even remembers the name, in that I have no idea if it was ever possible to access the console some other way. I've methodically worked my way through every key on my keyboard, the manual doesn't mention it, and a google search for some of the available commands didn't pick anything up, so I think I'm safe.

^heya Dark Savant. :)

27th of September

Two updates: sfall is up to 1.49, and includes a new contribution from Mash that lets you pick the apperence of your character when starting a new game. Also my summoner patch is in a lot better shape; the glitches caused by 32 bit mode are fixed, and there's an option to change resolution. The resolution change is about the same quality as 32 bit mode was last time; it works, but with known glitches. Specifically, all menus will be drawn in the top left of the screen in a 1024x768 block, with black borders making up the rest of the screen. Also the rendered face in the inventory screen is too zoomed in.

15th of September

sfall has been updated to 1.48. There's a huge speed improvement for people using Mash's hires patch in dx9 mode, the usual set of new player features, scripting functions and hook scripts, and a few bug fixes for issues in the original game, sfall, and in one odd case windows explorer. One of the fixes was for quite a nasty saving problem that has been in sfall since it first started saving extra information in fallouts save files; anyone who uses patch dats should update quite urgently.

On the subject of sfall, the recent re-release of fallout 2 on steam bundled it without my permission or knowledge. Some other 3rd party work by others was also included, again without permission. All of my efforts to get into contact with anyone about the issue have been ignored. On account of the lawsuit against interplay by bethesda I've stopped trying for now, but instead I've deliberately made sfall incompatible with the steam version of fallout and stopped uploading source code for it. If any steam users want to use it, get yourself a refund and redownload from somewhere like GoG.* (It's cheaper there anyway.) I'll get everything back to normal once someone from interplay** contacts me^. In case this happens again in the future I've also modified sfall to display a message on the title screen to indicate that it's installed:^^ One of my problems with it being included in a vanilla download is that because of the way it works it's possible for it to cause some really odd problems, and end users with no knowledge of mods working under the assumption that they've only installed a clean version of fallout would have a really hard time tracking down any wonkyness it may cause. (Plus having an in game way of checking sfall is installed and working properly is useful for everyone.) If anyone sees third party work in any other fallout distributions please let us know. The only other one I know of so far is the trilogy box set, which includes an older version of killaps unofficial patch, but not anything else.

It's been fairly obvious that I haven't been updating some of my older stuff for a while, but now I'm making it official. Development on obmm has stopped completely, and I advise everyone to use bain instead. fomm has been handed over to gfreeman14094, and mge to a new team. Visit their respective sourceforge pages for any further project updates.

Finally, I've started a new mini project for the old game summoner. It suffers from the same 16 bit dithering problem that I've already fixed in thief and crimson skies, and also has a limited range of resolution choices maxing out at 1024x768, which looks rather horrible on my monitor. This file is my first attempt at fixing the 16 bit problem; it breaks the opening movie and the screenshots attached to savegames, so I'll try and make a better attempt later. I've also got custom resolutions somewhat working, but bits of the ui are still getting drawn in the wrong place so I have a bit more work to do there before it's usable.

*OK, so it's almost certainly interplay that's at fault, not steam, but steam share some of the blame because after I attempted to contact them about it they've proved just as silent as interplay have been.

**Or possibly bethesda, according to a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation involving how the american legal system works and the cost of bethesda's lawyers.

^i.e. probably never. :(

^^I was toying with the idea of adding an autoupdate feature so that if it did happen again I could kill the whole thing remotely, but for obvious reasons I'm not going to go anywhere near that route. It is fun to imagine the effects of everyone who'd downloaded fallout 2 via steam spamming support at once with complaints that whenever they tried to start fallout it displays an error message about including some piece of stolen software they've never heard of though. Might have actually convinced someone to stop ignoring me. :p

10th of June

I've been off on another tangent the past couple of days, poking a bit at baldur's gate 2. There's piles of npc interactions/interjections, but for some reason I always seem to end up with similar parties. After deciding that I'd never have a chance to see everything, I was trying to increase the maximum party size. That didn't work out too well alas; I got rid of the reorder party prompt that springs up, and got a 7th member to join the party, but a couple of frames later they played their leaving message and semi-dropped out without me doing anything. (Although they did stay green, so maybe I was closer than I thought I was...) I could decrease the maximum party size quite easily, but that wouldn't make for a very interesting mod. In the end, all that I managed to do was raise the cap on ability scores; 25 is a little easy to hit, especially when trying to do a solo playthrough. I've made an ickle weido mod that raises it to 30,* (tob 26498 only, although it should be easy to port to other exes) but given that I don't actually know how to use weidu it could probably use a bit of improvement in the not-blindly-overwriting-.2da-files department.

Oh, and speaking of baldur's gate, there's another sfall update out that lets you set a key to highlight all items on the ground. The number of times I've been playing fallout, hammered tab, wondered why nothing was happening, and then taken a few seconds to work out the reason it isn't working is because I'm playing the wrong game was making me feel a bit senile.

*Not that I have any idea if that's legal in the p&p game.

2nd of June

First an ickle sfall update: sfall 1.44 adds two additional hook scripts that allow you to override the death animations of critters.

Next up is something new. I don't usually take requests for games I've never even heard of, but catch me when I'm bored enough and anything can happen. In this case, I've knocked up a fix for crimson skies, fixing some of the issues caused by running it on modern computers.

5th of May

fomm and sfall have both been updated. fomm 0.9.14 is mainly a bugfix release, but sfall 1.43 includes a few new things, most notably a fix for the corpses-block-line-of-fire problems. There's also an option to print karma changes to the console in the same way as when you gain exp, an option to play the players weapon reload animation when you reload, and several other contributions from others.

Bethesda released a 1.5 patch for fallout 3 a few days ago. A warning to anyone who uses mods: do not download it. The pattern we've seen so far of each patch getting progressively more buggy has been continued pretty well, with this one almost certain to eventually cause you to crash every time you try to save if you use any mods that modify exterior cells. There are also some other new equally obvious but less fatal issues, like all npcs placed by esps losing their race.

10th of April

fomm is up to 0.9.13. It now exposes tessnip esm/esp editing functionality, including the script compiler, as well as some dds manipulation functions to fomod scripts. nif manipulation would be nice too, but niflib and .net aren't the most cooperative beasties, so I'm having difficulty thinking of any way to include generalized nif editing support. On the other hand, individual more specialized functions are much easier, so if anyone has anything specific nif related that they want to be able to do from a fomod script, let me know and I can add it in. For anyone not using fomods, there have been a few other improvements, the most noticeable of which is that you can now access the settings menu from the load order screen. I know a lot of people were having trouble finding it. (Hint for next time: just read the manual. :p)

I haven't mentioned MGE for a while because I haven't done much work on it myself recently, but Krzymark has taken over where Liztail left off and is still making regular new releases. Check sourceforge for the latest download. There's been a lot of great improvements since the 3.8 release I made back in February.

Finally, I received my first ever donation on sourceforge today. Not a big deal, given that in the little message* I explicitly say not to waste money on me, but still slightly interesting: The reason I opted in to the donation thingy in the first place was because of a discussion about how many downloads obmm has had (500000-ish last I checked) compared to what it would have had if each download cost 1. (My guess was about 5.) Obviously I had no intention of charging for obmm, or anything else for that matter, but it still led to me betting that if I opted into donations on sourceforge I wouldn't receive a single one for 6 months. (This was about 18 months ago, so I won that quite easily. :p) On a related note, if anyone is too rich for their own good and wants to give me lots and lots of money, this page is a good place to start. More usefully, it also gives an up to date display of what I've been up to on fomm, although you'll need to follow the links to see any actual detail.

*Wow, how long ago did I write that? The fan I was talking about died a protracted, noisy death long ago... Guess it's time I updated it.

14th of March

I've removed the standalone fake xlive.dll download. If anyone wants it now, it's a part of Quarn's g4wl disabler mod, or included in fomm as part of the install tweaker utility. Leaving the standalone dll download up is causing too many problems with people dropping it into their system32 folder.

fomm is up to 0.9.11. fomods seem pretty stable now, and the bsa browser has been greatly improved. There's a new installation tweaker utility that aims to offer a few options to speed up fallout.* It doesn't actually have a huge real world effect of course; you're better off just reducing your graphics settings or something, but it was just one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time and which I wrote for the fun of it.

Finally, sfall is up to 1.42. There's a new hook-scripts feature that lets you script a few normally hardcoded bits of game mechanics and the usual slew of new script functions. Also Ray has added a new feature to load multiple patch dat's at once, and Jordan has sent a version of int2ssl that can decompile sfall's extra functions.

*Slightly technical bit: one of the things it can do is replace some of the d3dx functions with faster alternatives. d3dx uses sse2 by default if the processor supports it, but between the jump tables it uses and the dll import table fallout ends up making a call, 3 jumps and 2 memory reads just to get to the function. There's also a lot of wasteful prolog/epilog code that can be cut off, so even using exactly the same code as d3dx you can still get ~15% to 20% speed gains for the smaller functions. (See d3dx.cpp for some speed comparisons and bad spelling.) Fallout doesn't spend very much of its time stuck in d3dx functions of course, so this was more for the fun of it than any noticeable speed gain, but one thing I did notice while looking up bits that were suitable for replacement was that fallout would often contain code along the lines of this:

There are two very obvious issues there; (Well, obvious to anyone familiar with asm, d3dx and the _stdcall calling convention anyway,) one with the compiler, and one with the programmer. I suspect that if you were able to go through the whole fallout exe and fix all of the similar one-asm-line problems, the speed gain would be very noticeable indeed... (Well, ok maybe only a percent or two, but every little helps.)

21st of January

I've updated my g4wl fix for the fallout 1.1 patch. It used a few additional functions which fallout 1.0 didn't,* so trying to use the old patch just caused a missing ordinal in xlive.dll error. Remember that my 'fix' isn't really needed; you can get pretty much the same effect by just deleting fallout3.exe.cat. You only need the fake dll if you plan to completely uninstall g4wl.

*Including XShowMarketplaceUI, XLiveContentRetrieveOffersByDate, XLiveContentCreateEnumerator, XLiveContentGetDisplayName and XLiveContentGetPath, among a few others. Obviously the 1.1 patch is required for any of the dlc.

13th of January

Fallout mod manager 0.9 is out of beta at last, and marks the introduction of fomods. Thanks a lot to everyone who put up with it stomping all over their fallout installation for long enough to get the more obvious of the kinks sorted out. I've changed all the download links to just point at sourceforge for now, because doubtless there's going to be a few more slightly less obvious kinks reported to me very shortly, and I don't want to have to keep reuploading fixes to a pile of different sites every day. (TESsource still has a copy, but I'm only keeping the installer there, and not the 7z manual version.)