Old blog posts from June 2006

24th of June 2006

My VS problem turned out to be caused by zone alarm. A timestamp bug was introduced in 6.5.700 and fixed again in 6.5.722. Slightly annoying, but at least it lets .NET off the hook. Interestingly, I saw my Ďdel $(TargetPath)í workaround quoted on the official MSDN forums before zone alarm was discovered to be the cause.

In work related news, I suggest that anyone looking for any website CMS software avoids rhythmyx like the plague. In two hours of trying to input data I experienced 17 browser crashes using IE,* and anyone who dared to use firefox suffered even worse problems. Itís pretty darn slow too. It was fine at first, but as we added more and more data to it itís becoming unbearably slow. At the moment it takes about 20 seconds to submit a page update, which by my calculations will add up to 61 solid hours of waiting around by the end of the project, assuming that it doesnít slow down any more. On the bright side, Iím getting paid the same amount per hour regardless of whether or not I can get any work done, so the slower I work the more I get paid. On that basis,** I rate rhythmyx a strong 10/10. :)

On an elder scrolls related note, expect another MGE update either today or tomorrow. Iíve ironed out most of the remaining bugs, and the only thing stopping me making a release right now is that the distant land meshes have started displaying themselves on top of the loading screen again.

*The crashes obviously arenít directly caused by rhythmyx since itís running on some random server somewhere and not directly in my browser. It seems to be one of the java edit controls that the data input forms use thatís the source of the crashes.

**As well as the fact that we hijacked one of the spare computers to stream the world cup, so we have something interesting to do while waiting for an update to complete or the browser to reload after yet another crash.

18th of June 2006

Thereís a little bug in oblivions map screen which has really been bugging me the past few days. Itís not something which would effect many players, but Iím still finding it annoying enough to whine about. When Iím working on MGE I need to switch direct x to debug mode. Leaving direct x in debug mode only knocks a few fps of most games, so I donít usually bother changing it back before starting to play something if I know Iím going to be programming again shortly after. This has proved impossible in oblivion, because using the debug direct x dlls results in both the local and world maps getting drawn to the compass bar instead of the proper place in the hud. I assume this is caused by the slightly modified version of BTmod which I use and isnít an issue in unmodded oblivion*, because this glitch makes the game unplayable, so it would mean that Oblivion has never been beta tested using debug direct x**. Switching between debug/retail doesnít take much effort; the main problem is that I keep forgetting to do it. Oblivion doesnít take long to start up, but it seems to take forever to shut down again...

*I havenít been bothered to check yet, but I probably will at some point.

**Actually, Morrowind had a similar bug^ with loading screens which 10 seconds running it with debug direct x would have picked up, so maybe they really donít use it.

^Technical explanation: Morrowind uses a discard type swap chain, but doesnít redraw the whole screen every frame when loading stuff. Graphics cards/drivers are under no obligation to keep the previous frame intact when flipping a discard type swap chain, but for the most part they do, so this bug doesnít usually show up. The debug version of d3d clears the backbuffer alternating purple and green each frame when using a discard swap chain, so whenever morrowind loads anything the whole screen flashes. Either bethesda didnít switch direct x to debug mode to test stuff, or half of their beta testing team now have epilepsy. Unlike the oblivion bug, which is probably never going to bother anyone even if it does occur in unmodded oblivion, this bug did cause real problems when people tried to force antialiasing on in the graphics driver control panel. Depending on the exact graphics card and driver, forcing AA on could cause loading screens to blur, turn monochrome, (Usually white) or go really trippy. (Displaying unallocated graphics memory.) There is a fix for this bug in MGE, which I was forced to add to protect myself from headaches.

17th of June 2006

I hate working. I have way less free time than in when I was in uni, and I seem to be getting even less modding done than when I was in the middle of my exams. The only release Iím going to be making any time soon is a new MGE beta, which will hopefully be ready later today or tomorrow.

Iíve also been having problems with my copy of visual studio. It suddenly decided to stop updating exeís. Every time I hit F5 to run something, it builds it correctly, updates the symbol files but doesnít update the exe. Of course, the symbols then donít match the exe, and VS refuses to debug it with a ĎThe following module was built either with optimizations enabled or without debug informationÖí error. I checked all the build settings to make sure nothing had been changed. I reset all VS settings. I did a repair installation of VS. I even uninstalled VS, the whole .NET 2.0 framework, went into the registry and manually deleted any VS related gunk I could find and then reinstalled it all, and still had the same problem. Since I didnít feel like reinstalling windows just because of a single VS bug, I ended up adding Ďdel $(TargetPath)í to the pre-build command line of every single one of my projects. Luckily, this doesnít seem to increase build times at all, so either my projects are too small to see any benefit from incremental building, or VS makes an incremental build anyway even if the previous exe is missing.

11th of June 2006

obmm and my speed mod have both been updated. Both were mostly bug fix releases. Goodness knows how long the ConflictsWith obmm script function had been broken,.

Iím starting to get into oblivion more now. For every complaint I have against the game, there seems to be 2 dozen mods out to address it. Once I modded myself past the flawed game mechanics, the actual game itself is pretty good. In fact, Iím starting to prefer it over morrowind for the simple reason that it doesnít crash. Ever.* I certainly donít share peoples complaints that itís too small; the last fps I bought lasted me 4 days, but Iíve managed to get 2 months of fun out of oblivion before I even started playing it.**

I think Bethesda deliberately consolized the game safe in the knowledge that any PC userís could mod themselves out of it. I donít see this as a bad thing though; thereís no way to make a game which will appeal to everyone. In this case, the best option is to make it to appeal to the average console user since they canít use mods, but to also give away the CS and make oblivion almost completely customizable and then leave it up to PC users to create hundreds of slightly different game variants, one of which will probably appeal to anybody.^

*Well, actually I managed to CTD it once by using my time mod to rapidly switch between 10x normal speed and 0.5x normal speed while running around the imperial city and switching areas. That probably doesnít count though.

**OK, so that has nothing at all to do with game size, but Iím sure I can get 4 days of gameplay out of it too.

^Although I really would have liked to see the xbox vs PC flaming which ensued if theyíd released a different version of the game on PC. Preferably from a safe distance, such as the next universe.

8th of June 2006

My finals are finally over. I think I did ok, but itís always hard to be sure when the questions concern things like launching hamsters down 500m deep mine shafts and calculating how long it takes you to hear the squeak given the temperature gradient from the bottom to the top of the shaft. Anyway, now that that little piece of Real Life is over and done with, I can finally get back to modding.

To get things started, obmm has already received 2 updates, and Iíve also updated my game speed mod to work with the oblivion 1.1 patch.* The next thing I intend to release is MGE 2.6, in all of itís infinite view distance and fake HDR glory. After that, obmm 0.8 is due, followed by a TESsnip rewrite.**

The only thing that may throw a spanner in the works is the fact that thanks to the 1.1 patch, I can now actually play oblivion. Admittedly I have to play it in very low quality mode and at an average of 18 fps, but at least it runs now. So if I disappear for a few days, you all know where Iíve gone. Hereís a quick list of the things that bug me most so far - The level scaling is pure evil, and whoever designed it needs to be shot. - The level up system is also horrible, although to a slightly lesser extent than the level scaling. Perhaps the person who designed it can get away with a mere broken leg or two. Within 30 mins of starting the game, I found myself keeping track of which skills Iíd levelled on a piece of paper to try and keep track of how many more Iíd need to get my 5x attribute multipliers. That is Not Good. At the least, the current multiplier should have been shown in the menus, and my personal preference would have been for attributes to increase automatically as your skills increased, and never have multipliers on the level up menus. I donít much mind the level 100 skill cap thing, but there should at least have been some advantage to fortifying things above 100. - Everything is completely console-ized. Iím sitting right in front of a screen at 1280x1024 resolution, (which is fairly low, or standard at best, for a modern PC,) so Iíd like to be able to see more than 6 items per inventory page. Luckily, thereís already plenty of mods out to fix most of the consoleitus symptoms. - You canít delete old spells. For my pure mage character whoís never touched a weapon or armour apart from the arena gunk, and has pages and pages of spells, this is a complete nightmare. It takes me forever to find anything. - Skill levelling speed isnít consistent. My conjuration and illusion skills are increasing at a ridiculous rate, (I had them both at 60 within a couple of hours of starting the game,) but I can hardly increase destruction or restoration at all.

To be honest, oblivion isnít anywhere near as good as Iíd hoped. It does have its good points,^ but Iíll probably get bored of it in a few days. Heck, Iíd have stopped playing it already, if it wasnít for the many talented modders fixing as many holes as they can get their hands on.

*This involved 20 mins of waiting around while the oblivion patch installed itself,^^ 30 mins of waiting around while ida pro did itís auto-analysis thingy, and then 5 minutes of actually extracting a list of file offsets which needed to be modified. Why is it that the faster computers get, the longer I seem to spend waiting around for them to do stuff? I even managed to make myself a nocd patch faster than the 1.1 patch installed itself.

**I have a vague suspicion I may be biting off more than I can chew here. It is the summer hols though, so at least I have plenty of free time.

^Mainly that it doesnít pull morrowinds trick of CTDing every half hour.

^^Actually, it involved 20 mins of the patch not installing itself, on account of me forgetting to undo the changes obmm had made to the BSA files, 5 mins of me trying to get my oblivion box down from the top shelf where itís been living the past couple of months, 15 mins of reinstalling oblivion, and then 20 mins of me installing the whole blasted patch again. But that was entirely my fault, so I cant really complain about it.

1st of June 2006

Itís the end of another month, and the end of my finals are in sight. In May, this site received visits from 23134 unique IP addresses and used almost 10gb of bandwidth. obmm received 13079 downloads,* split around 5:1 between the installer and the 7-zip. Firefox continues to be the most popular browser with 47% of the hit count, compared to IEís 41%.** The majority of the rest comes from opera and obmmís autoupdater. Iím sad to say that a further 11 people managed to find this site by typing the full web address into google.

Given that a surprising amount of people actually read what I post here, and that Iíve already managed to accidentally start one rumour, letís see if I can start another one deliberately. Bethesda Softworks is a division of ZeniMax Media, and not a completely independent company. Go visit this page on ZeniMax Mediaís website, and see if you can spot what Iíve seen.***

ZeniMax Media has three separate divisions - Bethesda, who are responsible for the PC and console TES games, Vir2L, responsible for the handheld TES games, and ZeniMax Productions, responsible for the production of an, in their own words, Ďworld class massively multiplayer on-line role playing game.í This doesnít necessarily have anything to do with TES, unless you consider the company logos to the right. Clicking on the Bethesda logo takes you to the Bethesda website.^ Clicking on the Vir2L logo takes you to the Vir2L website. Clicking on the ZeniMax Productions logo takes you directly to the elder scrolls site. This may be a giant assumption, but I therefore assume that this mmorpg is going to be a TES game. So to all you mmorpg fans dying to see an online TES game,^^ you may be in luck after all.

I did a bit of googling for ZeniMax Productions, but all I came up with was an online CV claiming that they were developing some unnamed xbox title and that their employees werenít allowed to enter some survivor sweepstakes competition. Aside from that little bit on the profile page, I couldnít find any mention of a mmorpg anywhere. In fact, given that I couldnít find any reference to ZeniMax Productions newer than 2001 at all, I may as well be making all this up. Heck, this mmorpg could already have been released and died already and been completely non TES related for all that I know, but itís still just as good a rumour as the Bethesda is deliberately screwing modders one.^^^

*Not including old versions, betas or updates.

**Thereís probably a good reason for this - The tag IE uses as its referrer is generally one page behind for non html files, resulting in piles of incorrect 403 errors. The first page you look at with IE is probably covered in red xís. On top of that, if you bookmarked the download page, then IE probably wont let you download anything.

***I imagine that itís been there ages, so Iím probably not the first person to point this out. Iíve never seen this posted anywhere before though.

^Both Bethesda and Vir2L also develop non-TES related games, so they both have their own non-TES related websites.

^^I am not one of them. Itíll take more than a singing fat lady or flying pig to get me to pay a monthly fee to play an online game. If there are no monthly fees, and talking in CAPS, l33t or generally being an annoying 13 year old are grounds for immediate banning, then I might consider it.

^^^Did I mention that theyíve increased the prices of their mods? The next one will be $3.