Sorry, dear readers. Or reader, more likely. I’ve been slacking off for the last few months and now my self-guilt compels me to update.
My work on a branch of PackBSP to handle more game-engines didn’t go so well. I painted myself into some of the same “massive rewrite” corners I vowed to avoid, and then spent so long doing other things that it’s hard to pick up again. On the other hand, I think I’ve worked my way through some architectural problems, and the silver-lining of having no other code-contributors is that I don’t need to worry about backwards-compatibility very much.
Currently my interest is on the Netbeans Platform, and how I might be able to use it to streamline PackBSP and break away from the limitations of a wizard-centric interface. Actually, my daydream is to create a bunch of Netbeans plug-ins that turn the Netbeans IDE into a Source-engine-related powerhouse, but with the VIDE making a surprise return from the dead, perhaps that niche is already well on its way towards being filled.
Lastly, as a matter of interest, I temporarily fixed my video card with the “oven trick” (8 minutes at 375 Fahrenheit) but a week or two later it failed again, so I may just put it up on Craigslist as a challenge to anyone who thinks they can make it stick.
Well, it seems my graphics card (which has been limping along for years with intermittent glitches under load) has finally given up the ghost and my computer will no longer boot. Fortunately, this occurred after I finished wringing many hours of enjoyment and completionism from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, or else I would feel incredibly annoyed at the interruption. (Aside: It’s a good game. A worthy successor to Deus Ex.)
Since the card (an Nvidia 8800GT variant) is still decently-powerful and has no obvious damage, I’m going to see what I can do under the limited-lifetime warranty. Compared to its earlier foibles, RMAing now ought to be unambiguous and straightforward, given that the computer now refuses to even POST if the card is present.
I’m having second-thoughts on how to manage the dependency graph(s). I’ve been experimenting with a “directed multigraph”, but I worry that it adds too much complexity when it comes to determining what portions of it are connected when only a certain type of edge is considered, and whether I’m over-complicating things. Actually, I’m pretty sure I am over-complicating things, but freedom to experiment is part of what makes an independent project fun.
PackBSP’s profile-loading (a nested Spring ApplicationContext, really) is well underway, but I’m adding another level of indirection (some data-holding classes) to avoid too tight of an integration with certain HL2Parse innards. My main goal right now is to geta build which reproduces most of the current dependency-crawling features, and then worry later about how components are going to merge/override specific configuration data, like recognized shader parameters.
This will also mean integrating and testing the new dependency-graph classes, which unlike the old version are able to model crawling multiple maps at once, where each map may potentially have its own copy of a named asset in its pakfile. This is done by allowing multiple edges in the graph (directed acyclic multigraph) where each edge corresponds to the context of a particular map. In this way most nodes will be shared across maps (avoiding duplication of effort) but differences can still be modeled by having certain nodes only connected through map-specific edges.
It’s still very much in the prototyping phase, but I think I have a long-term way for PackBSP to hit the right mix of reliability and customization it may need long-term. Key word? “Profiles”.
Well, Source-descended games have me stumped. There’s a bunch of a variation in behavior between them (consider L4D2 campaign creation versus Portal 2′s map transitions) and I’m trying to find the right technique to make PackBSP work differently depending on what the user has selected… Even assuming I can correctly identify the features of what they picked.
Sometimes that means little things like specifically looking for certain entities that aren’t listed in the FGD files. Other times it almost means changing what GUI a user will see. Creating completely different “editions” of PackBSP seems like it would lead to its own difficulties keeping everything updated, so I’m hoping to find some solution with the Spring framework. I considered the Apache Commons-Configuration library for a while, but I really do need the ability to swap out different code and wiring as opposed to key/value settings.
This gets a little weirder when you consider how to handle new mods. Should it limp along, treating “Mod X” as if it were the same as default Half Life? How easy would it be to add support for Mod X? How would the program recognize it if the authors did a revamp and released “Mod X 1.5″?
Perhaps the best solution is to mostly divorce the detection of games from the identification of games. So the user sees that they can pick “Zombie Shooterz” as a game, but it is up to them to tell PackBSP to use the “Half Life 2 Episode 2″ setting, or the “L4D2″ setting, depending on what code-base the game is built from.
It seems that Steam can sometimes have an exclusive lock on the clientregistry.blob file, which keeps anybody else from reading it in just about any way. This is an inconvenience since it means PackBSP cannot read the data it needs about game-assets. I’ve been looking into using JNI with the Microsoft Volume Shadow Service, but not only is it quite a bit out of my comfort zone in C/C++, but there may be licensing issues that would make it very difficult to put the functionality into an open-source project.
It might be easier to lobby Valve for a workaround, like having Steam periodically attempt to dump a copy to some other filename.
In the meantime, simply turn off Steam, start PackBSP, choose the game you want to pack for, and then restart Steam before you reach the actual altering-the-BSP step.
Still alive, working on PackBSP when not creatively-drained from work. I may end up skipping past a few version numbers to represent all the rewriting going on. Among other initiatives:
- Some sort of system to handle packing multiple maps at once, in order to support the VPK/campaign workflow.
- Per-game config files, allowing various features to be toggled on and off.
- Foreign-language support. It’ll be possible for non-programmers to contribute translations.
- Ability to manually create a per-map config file that specifies assets to include/exclude
On a lighter note, I went ahead and pre-ordered Deus Ex: Human Revolution, mainly on the strength of the favorable comments everyone who downloaded the leaked press-beta, but unfortunately it won’t be out until August. (And let’s face it, with a title like “I Wanted Orange” I pretty much had to.)
As PackBSP has grown, I’ve tried to keep certain things “softcoded” in configuration files, firstly to make more problems user-solvable, and secondly to support people making maps for new games and mods which I haven’t personally encountered. For example, the list of VMT shader parameters can get new additions as games are patched, and some mods may incorporate things like level overviews.
Working on support for multiple SDKs/Engines/Mods, I think the effort I’ve put into these configuration options (which are starting to multiply and cross-cut) runs the risk of “reinventing the wheel”…. So I am considering rewiring PackBSP to use some minimal parts of the Spring Framework instead. (No, PackBSP is not becoming a web-application.)
My hope is that this will allow a broad, consistent, and easier route for configuration, which reduces the barrier tech-savvy users face when it comes to getting PackBSP to work just right with an obscure game or new mod.
Not a lot of news, been busy with work-work. I’ve made some progress with adding multiple-SDK support to PackBSP (progress you can follow on the GitHub page, if so interested) but there’s still a ways to go in terms of specific support for SDKs like the L4D2 Authoring Tools. I may need to take some system tools and try to determine what the game is doing behind-the-scenes in terms of accessing file paths, working with add-ons, etc.
I’ve also added an announcement e-mail list for anyone who wants to get notified when the next release comes out. (It may be a while, but all the more reason to set up a reminder before you forget, eh?) The sign-up form is on the PackBSP page here on the blog.