The First Step of Many

Lock-iconIt has been a while since I have posted anything.  And now, I will post about a topic very near to my heart and certainly an area I know a great deal about, more so than I believe anyone the Australian Government is seeking “guidance” from with regards to the retention of metadata.

First things first, metadata is descriptive data.  Databases and spreadsheets all contain forms of metadata from the schema (layout) of the tables and fields, columns and rows to people who wrote it, the time editing and other data.  Such data is used many times with indexing services, it is able to read some of this metadata and also search on this data.

image

This is just the tip of the iceberg, this document I am showing the properties of has this metadata attached (I will look into this data as well shortly) but any computer to computer communication requires metadata.  Most of it harmless and of little importance but in reality it is a symptom of the Internet we setup for ourselves and now so heavily rely on that changing, at its core, the way networking hardware communicate together would surely cause an outage on such a scale, we would not be willing to do it.

That said, the issue is not so much that data is collected, each hardware will have logs of varying levels capturing the data which can, with little effort personally identify you.  A number 162.162.162.162, is your address on the web.  This address is allocated to you by your ISP and ISP has a log of which account was allocated this IP (Internet Protocol) Address.  This address, that web sites also have is resolved through a DNS (Domain Name Server) which translates the name, http://www.websitename.com to 185.185.185.185 and it routes it around the web finding that address and once found the data is this returned to the address that asked for it, you.

All of this data, is kept, there are flagged sites that when ISPs detect you have gone to one of these flagged sites your details, date, time, IP address and so on are sent to authorities.  But, normal use is merely logged.  The laws in Australia force the ISPs and telecommunication companies to retain this data and provide it to one of the policing bodies like the AFP (Australia Federal Police) or any of the state counterparts, ASIO and ASIS (ASIO is international, ASIS is domestic) even bodies like the CCC (Corruption and Crime Commission).  All of them can request without warrant this data from the various companies who collect it providing it forms part of a legitimate investigation.  They don’t need to be looking for terrorists or potential jihadists, in fact the AFP has requested much of this data around government leaking of data because in Australia it is against the law to leak information even if considered in the best interesting of the people it is still illegal.

If they are getting access to this data now, why the bother?  Well the law has made it easier to get.  There is a judge who oversees granting approval (I am not sure if that is who it is or not) but they are appointed by the PM of the day and has now judicial oversight it is also now illegal to state if any permission to seek data was made if it was made or not.  This is what should be ringing alarm bells everywhere, we have one person, who says “yes” or “no” as to whom can get the data which can personally identify you and where you have gone not to mention that don’t report to anyone they are not an independent or need to be, there doesn’t need to be bipartisanship with the government or opposition as it is just the Prime Minister who appoints them and any case they look into, it is against the law to even report about it. 

This is an issue as massive one since we might be looking at merely the descriptive data of our activities on the internet but this can tell a lot about a person, and information in a political world is capital and a lot of it as well.  So don’t be surprised if the laws are used for less than the predefined reasons such as policing and counter-terrorism.

How can one get away with hiding themselves on the internet?  How can I stops anyone knowing where I have been?  Well if you communicate through the internet it is a difficult one to hide your footprints.  Using a TOR browser1 will help remove your source location when browsing the regular web.  But one of the metadata elements that is collected is what browser you are using so they will now that using that browser will mean you are hiding details but since it will take more efforts to locate you it isn’t needed. 

But this post isn’t about using TOR or other mechanisms to avoid detection as the only way to not have data on the internet collected is to stay off it.  Using the technology of old will help, traditional letters, dead drops and location marking, meeting face to face.  If you need to get information out and to other people find a way that doesn’t involve communication through media.  Or use heavy traffic and generic areas, high traffic twitter posts as long as mentions were done, using aliased accounts internet cafes and cash will hide it (but understand using an internet cafe to access an account will compromise the account as often they have key loggers so they would be one use only. 

We are heading backwards in terms of privacy in this country and which opposition is going to be strong enough to stand up for it when we have the fuel being tipped constantly on the fire of cafe sieges and regular people heading over to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIL and anyone who stands up for their privacy is on the terrorists side.  That I should be OK with prying eyes looking at where I have been as long as I have done nothing wrong, but I don’t like it when laws come in like this as all it takes is for someone with an agenda beyond that of terrorism like saving the kids from pornography and we have a brand new spying going on.

 

  1. TOR Browsers are used to get access to what is called the Deep Web.  An area of the internet that is not indexed on your usual search engines like Google or Bing.  The reason for this is they use a different protocol header, normal web uses http or https but the deep web uses often tor.  Using these protocols tells the browser to go to certain routers on the web to find the data as the usual routers will not know where to redirect your traffic to.

First Down, Few More to Go

First SceneI Have just finished the first scene of my new script.  I have included this in here to show, the first scene, INT. HOUSE and then the next which ends the first scene EXT. MILE’

This was a scene that didn’t come the synopsis but it came from the character bio.  I needed a way to show the main character is haunted by his actions in the past.  The flashback, the dream, I wanted something quick to convey this, since this is a short, time is off the essence.  22 seconds, in accordance with it.

For those wondering I am using Adobe Story Plus.  So far I have not done anything with this that defines that I need to pay for the subscription.  I will be using Premiere and After Effect and possibly more and obviously story.

So, what can I show you about Adobe Story.  Things aren’t as simple to use as you might think with many Adobe products, but once you know, you have a wide array of options.

Once it is written, a scene can be viewed through the Scene Properties.   To open the scene properties panel, Click View | Scene Properties Panel.

Once open, you are given many and I do say many collapsable areas where the script scene information can be further expanded.  It gives you some basic information initially.

image

The basic information is the scene length, number of pages broken into 8ths if less than a page.

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The time of the scene, this is based on the 1 page to 1 minutes rule and therefore 1/8th is about 7 seconds.  So the 2/8 of a page is 14 seconds as it states.  The time of day, the day in the story as well.  If this is important but it helps with continuity in some regards.  So, if you know, put it in there as well as any time of day, once again this is a continuity thing especially if there are clocks in the scene we will be able to see the time and make sure we get it right.

Below are characters, if there is someone speaking in the scene then you will see that character already in there.  Non-speaking characters can be included in this.  They are “/” delimited if you wish to include more.  Press the Edit button and it will open the dialog.  The easiest way I have found to make sure it works properly is you enter a name, Press CTRL + Enter, then click Edit again and repeat the process.  Each time the [NS] tag is appended to the end of the character name.

Extras are the same, speaking extras come from the names of the extras from that list.  My feeling is since in the free version I am unsure how you can manage the lists of characters in this version.  In Story Plus there is a manage lists option for the project and you can update these.  So if a character is in the character list or the extras list this will mark how it used.

Synopsis is a very quick run down of the scene.  Notes are for any notes you wish, these are not anything to do with the comments.  So if there is a note needed for that scene, this is the place for it.

Budget I am a little disappointed in it is an open text field.  They could have just provided a little more structure to it.  But more on this later.   State of Part, I do not know what this is I am sorry as I am unable to add more information into this field as it doesn’t seem editable.  Once I know I will provide an update.

Storyboards.

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The storyboards need to exist on the internet.  So, all storyboards need to be uploaded to some location that is accessible from the internet for anyone.  The image above I found a storyboard imageand I included it as to show.  I also tried using a view link from One Drive and this, to the left is what it looked like.  Since the link is meant to take you to OneDrive in which the file will be streamed to your client, since it isn’t a direct file, this is difficult to work.

Drop Box and Google Drive might provide a better way to do it but since I don’t have either I can’t properly conform if they do or don’t.  One drive provides a mechanism however to download the file.  This link, can be included into the image link and it will then display in the box.  It takes a little while as there are various additional steps that need to go through to get the image to you.  But select the image.

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Right Click Download and click Copy Shortcut (IE) Copy Link Location (Firefox).  This URL can then be based into the link location, and it takes a couple of seconds for it to appear.

But I can’t be sure either if this link will work if NOT signed into OneDrive or with someone who doesn’t have access to it, I will update this as I find out more.

Camera Shots, this changes the script format.  You are unable to put the camera shots in without a new copy of the script created. 

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You do get to put this shot into the scene, once the details are entered it will insert the information into the shot list as described in the collapsable panel and it will include it into the script.

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The custom properties are just freeform text for entering anything that might enable you to use either in another part of the production pipeline or somewhere else.

Breakdown – This isn’t as easy to find in comparison to others and it is used within the VERY expansive Tag system used.  Adobe know metadata and they are relying use of these tags throughout the entire production pipeline. 

imageI might save this for another post since the tag system is a very all encompassing thing that has you highlighting the script, choosing colours, etc… so I will have a follow-up post on using the tags.

But, if you are writing the script, it is one area that depending on the length of it can take a LONG time.  If you have the budget, there are external services that read through scripts and provide a very thorough report on all of the elements needed for production.

But this is it.  Once you have taken your scene and fill in the various details about it.   Story has much that can be defined and though in Celtx that are in your face, labels as such, in Story that are not as obvious and you need to get access to them. 

The budgets is the area not covered much in Story.  It is possibly because there is no additional information that is needed in any other Adobe product that could come from here, this is no Adobe budgeting software, or reports directly that can be printed.

So as I learn Story I will add more posts about it, the true test will be if all of this data that can be collected against the script can be used down the production process when capturing the data logging the clips and so on.

A Leap of Faith

I recently worked on a post regarding the changes to Celtx and how one could get and keep their original offline versions of software so those who have invested into the platform could maintain it.  But as I have been also posting about I have been slowly getting back into my filmmaking side and exploring ways to proceed into it.  But it has been sometimes since the days of past where I could pull up my favourite editor and whittle away the hours tapping away on a keyboard but more one my issues with that later. 

It has occurred to me that the software I once used is no longer supported in fact the guy who wrote has dropped off the face of the earth.  The other collaborative tool I used was Celtx and it has changed significantly since I last used it.  Final Draft has gone under 2 revisions (and it still is pretty much the same software) and I have never touched Movie Magic.

But there are other players, free, not so free and the outright bizarre.  I am not going to look into each and do a massive review, but the one thing I will be looking is the leap of faith people take and then find their product has gone, not supported, shut down or a shadow of themselves.  What does one do when this happens?  I look a new player in the landscape in general but not to the field is Adobe with their Adobe Story.  A script writing platform, which is web based only, offer a free and a premium version for a subscription cost and provide some cloud storage.

Its premium version has scheduling and production reports (the full suite I do not know), can export into Excel, which I am presuming allows for budgeting but it is the lack of offline versioning that makes it tricky.  If you decide to take the leap, since “I will be using Premiere and After Effects” then why not.  It speaks of integration but I have yet to try it and I think I will when I go the whole hog, when I have spoke with some people to determine what collaboration I can get I will look further into this and provide a more end to end up date on it.  But, that said, I am trying it for one project, but for those who go the whole hog, web only, documents in the cloud and the service shuts down, they can, it is in their terms of service, they would burn a lot of bridges if they did that but it is a reality.  What then?  My friend and I had 26 different scripts and that equated to about 290 or so files including all of the different versions and this was on Celtx.  They stopped providing the software to use the old system and were unrepentant about it, but through some diligence and searching I found their last version, installed, hope it worked and downloaded them all.  My issue is now it is all in the format of the software that is no longer supported.

I have scripts in Final Draft, which is still available but I have to find my licence for it.  I have them in Sophocles formats and so on.  Each one, has their pros and cons and not one can provide me with everything I want.

Another one I found out recently was Fade In, not long ago there was Movie Outline and I still get spam mails from there about their product which I believe started as an outline and pre-script tool and progressed into a fully fledged application.  There is of course Final Draft, Celtx and Movie Magic Screenwriter.

So for those uninitiated I have just shown 6 different screenwriting applications all providing one thing in common, if not more, they all write screenplays.  Their costs vary and being in Australia it is even worse for some.

Product Price
Adobe Story Free ($9.99/month Story Plus)
Celtx Free ($9.99/month Standard, $19.99/month Premium)
Fade In $49.95
Movie Magic $160.00
Movie Outline $199.95
Final Draft $249.99 (AU$319.64)

It is an interesting cost difference for software that does very much the same thing as what I am using now, or what Microsoft Word does.  I know there will be people who argue it, but to devote so much of your time writing, creating stories only to be bound to a product or worse be left with manually converting scripts because you selected product is now gone.  Not to mention actual cost investment.

Some of these packages aren’t cheap, Final Draft likes it prices high because if you look at their testimonials page we have so many Hollywood screenwriters endorsing their use.  I remember a post did a while back regarding George RR Martin and what he uses for his writing, and old DOS machine. Which he gets to work it enables him to write his books and then export it and send it to the publisher for editing and finally publishing.  Does anyone of these products enable you to write a BETTER script, no, since that is up to you.  If I pay the money for Final Draft and more academy award winning screenwriters use it does that statistically mean I will receive an academy award one day or at leats have a statistical chance to get one.  Well one thing I can say is statistics do not take into account other than actual numbers and under those I would say yes, there is a statistical chance if I use it I will get one.  But the reality is, I have an equal chance of getting an award for screenwriting using ANY of the above products.

So which do I use, which platform do I decide to sink my teeth or my money into.  Well the biggest draws at the moment are Adobe Story or Celtx for one main reason, collaboration.  I can, with my friend sit down with the application open, and run through at different locations and use Skype and update the script.  My friend has been my First AD and chances are will remain to, while I direct as he is the best one I have worked with and his work ethic is second to none.  But I am looking at it from a project by project aspect and it isn’t an easy choice but at least Story enables importing Final Draft which I do have documents of floating around but the Celtx offering still enables so much more than script writing and as a pre-production took, like the Sophocles product I used to use, it is a stand out.

I am wary of a leap of faith again and I might keep my options often and export and keep backups of all my version in a nice open format that I can use anywhere depending on the situation and what happens to my platform of choice, like Celtx and Sophocles of past.

The Scourge of the Google Coder

This above all””: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, though canst not then be false to any man.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

There is much the internet has given us but one area which many people seem to lose site of, as its integration with the every day seems so entrenched that one doesn’t know life without it.  Why did I quote Shakespeare and then talk about the internet?  I will get there.

But first, the title.  The Google Coder and I am not referring to the person who does development work at Google.  I am talking about a person so adept at finding any piece of code on the internet and using it within their application.  What is wrong with this?  Lots.

See the code below.

Module Main

    Private Const DO_NOT_EXCEED As Integer = 4000000
    Sub Main()
        Dim firstNumber As Integer = 1
        Dim secondNumber As Integer = 2
        Dim newNumber As Integer = 0
        Dim evenSum As Integer = 2

        'Display the first number numbers
        Console.WriteLine(firstNumber.ToString())
        Console.WriteLine(secondNumber.ToString())

        'While the new calculated number does not exceed the max amount
        While newNumber < DO_NOT_EXCEED
            'Calculate the next number in the sequence
            newNumber = firstNumber + secondNumber

            'ouput the new number
            Console.WriteLine(newNumber.ToString())

            'Flip the values around for calculation
            firstNumber = secondNumber
            secondNumber = newNumber

            'Check to see if the number is an even one
            If newNumber Mod 2 = 0 Then
                'Check to seed if the number does not exceed our max
                If newNumber > DO_NOT_EXCEED Then
                    'if it does, exit the loop
                    Exit While
                End If

                'add the number as it is an even number.
                evenSum += newNumber
            End If

        End While

        'output the answer
        Console.WriteLine()
        Console.WriteLine(String.Format("The sum of the even numbers in a fibonacci sequence that do no exceed {0}", DO_NOT_EXCEED.ToString()))
        Console.WriteLine(evenSum.ToString())
    End Sub

End Module

This is a solution to a problem posed;

By considering the terms in the Fibonacci sequence whose values do not exceed four million, find the sum of the even-valued terms.

This is my code, hand written without help from anyone.  The problem also comes from a site called Project Euler which sets out problems that is to be solved using a computer language.  The number of languages used is staggering for many they would be querying why are there so many languages when they all function to do the same thing, enable a computer to solve a problem.

But the purpose of it is to enable you as the developer to solve the problem using all your bags of tricks.  The problems are designed in a manner that often a large number are involved and often workout out problems based on these large numbers and working things out repetitively, the purpose built domain of the computer.  I might hear some people say, “why?”, “Why bother doing all that work, for nothing or doing all that work when you can easily look up the answer on Google?”.  True.

Why would I want to work out something on my own?  Why would I like to press submit on the answer screen and get a correct status up knowing that I did it, all by myself without any help and I got it right the first time.  I might not have been the first to do it, or written the prettiest code, the fastest code.  But to me, it isn’t the purpose.  When at work and I am writing code what is my objective with that specific problem.  Well to get the desire outcome.  It is a key for any developer to know the problem and understand it, then using the tools develop the solution.  Now often the problems are far more complex than determine the sum of the even Fibonacci numbers that is not greater than 4 million.

What would searching the answer or code to get the answer do for me?  Speed.  Nothing else, it doesn’t teach me anything, in fact I can go as far as saying many tutorials set up are great but don’t do much to aide in the learning process to enable proper retention, but that is something else.  I remember a while ago I competed in a coding competition which pitted developers against developers, with nothing but a barebones Windows PC and Visual Studio, no internet, no phones a pen and paper next to the PC.  We had to solve a problem, in a given timeframe.  I got into the top 10 but my time ran out.  But it was interesting to see that there were about 60% who dropped away after the first couple of problems, mutterings of it being impossible, anyone who solved it must have been cheating etc… I put these people into the Google coding camp, they were unable look for the solution on the internet and therefore they couldn’t work it out.

Is this detrimental to the overall coding quality?  Who knows?  I have seen some terribly written code in the years, not saying mine are works of art.  In fact the most efficient code is possibly not the easiest to maintain.  But it comes to this saying;

Only write the code that only you can write.

This comes back to the quote from Hamlet about being true to yourself.  In coding, one might think something like this

int myNumber = 10;
myNumber++;

is the only way to increment 10 by one.  But what about the following;

int myNumber = 10;
myNumber += 1;

Or;

int myNumber = 10;
myNumber = myNumber + 1;

Or

int myNumber = 10;
int i = 1;
myNumber = myNumber + i;

This is the issue as well.  Each of these do the right thing, they increment 10 by 1, but they use different methods to do this.  You might argue that the first version was the correct version.  But the others are also correct, they do the job, and if it is different to what you do, is it wrong no, it is an opinion.   But is that a problem for today where so many people believe their opinion is the right one and fail to understand that they have their opinion as well as I have mine and everyone else’s has theirs.

So, I guess what I am getting to is, write code, your way, the way you want to.  This might go against some other posts where I have spoken about terrible coding, but when you go to Google you aren’t writing your code.  By all means use it as a resource, find out the interface to the API workout what to put in, but don’t just copy and paste it as you will learn nothing.  Plagiarism is a problem with this world as we expand our use of the internet in all walks off life, it happened in University where there were always someone wanting to take the easy path, copy the code, rename the variables and move a few things around and boom, it is now yours.  But like all things it isn’t you if you do that, your techniques, approaches to development aren’t prevalent and if there is anyone who knows you will find that out.

Use the internet, but don’t rely on the internet and as technology becomes an ever increasing crutch the world relies on we will become more and more reliant on it being the correct answer to everything which puts Google (only because they are the dominant player in searching) in a position to fulfil any chosen agenda they wish and they are doing so, more than anyone knows.

State of the Game–2014/2015

The new year has come and gone.  We have seen an interesting twelve months with many additions.  But we will go over things from last year just briefly.

We started 2014 with Galactic Starfighter, ending 2013 with early access and seeing the public update come in the February.  This was the space combat game people wanted when they first started seeing what was going into the game the words “…pilot your own ship…” were thrown around, what we go Space Battles the on rail shooter was a fun feature to while the time away, but it was no way integrated into the story.  Neither was Galactic Starfighter other than with an interesting change on the flashpoints with the Kuat Drive Yards FP meant to serve as the starter to jumping into the action.

Was it right?  Yes, what the team at BioWare put into this was everything people wanted from the get go.  But was on vital element missing…

ship_defender ship_freighter ship_thunderclap
ship_fury ship_phantom ship_mantis

Enable players to pilot their Starship into the fray.  The introduction of the fighters, bombers, etc… we have seen throughout the story was good, but it would have been nice.  The models are there, use the one used for the Space Battles, I think there will be a massive take on this.  But that is my opinion.

Invasion

April gave us the first part of the story arc we have seen come to its conclusions at the end of the year.  The Korriban Incursion and Assault on Tython tactical flashpoints.  We had the end of the first official season, some PvP love was also bestowed with the a Starfighter Map, the Quesh Huttball bit for the warzones.

These flashpoints gave us a certain glimpse of the goings on in the galaxy and with the breief encounter of the Revanites on Dromund Kaas which has you determining if you are worthy and then needing to steal the mask of Revan from Lord Gratham.  Was the seeds of things to come sewn back then. 

Soovada

Hit us in June.  This was initially a way to bring into the game a credit sink for mainly PvP players as they really don’t have any mechanism for dumping their credits into other than minor upgrades to their gear.  Since most upgrades can be obtained through commendations.  So, what better way than spend credits than buying tokens to get some new gear.  The weapons were interesting certain the Kingpin Blaster Rifle, very Tommygun-esque in its appearance.  It is still sitting in my cargo-hold waiting for that perfect look to match, I think I am nearly there.

Why do I believe this was meant as a credit sink for PvP.  Because when introduced they offered double commendations for all PvP events AND you could purchase tokens for the machines using commendations, credits worked just as well.  This was a success and the community were asking for more events, so we have this one, we also got life day, which need to get expanded.   But I will talk more about this later.

Welcome to your Stronghold

We all had our ships, our home away from home.  Our crew always more open when on our ships, but now, we have the ability to have decorate our homes.  This was considered a much needed addition, especially for the large guilds and keen role players of the community but there was one small catch. 

Subscribers, got early access and a nice Nar Shaddaa Sky Palace and based on past, recordable achievements we received the trophies of our successes in Flashpoint and Operations.

But Strongholds and Guild Flagships are are massive expense.  I purchased all of the strongholds and proceeded to unlock the rooms, this was an expensive exercise and now, with everything unlocked there is little in the way some of them look.  But I am happy with just slowly build on them.

People, as always have an experience with what they want from player housing decorations etc…  Often these expectations lead to disappointment and constantly there is disappointment with much of the community.   I know with Guild Capital Ships there was so much more they wanted than parking a ship above a planet to help boost the conquest points achieved from performing conquest missions there.  More on Conquests and Guild Capital Ships later.

This patch also saw Manaan come back, the ocean world and the new Flashpoint with the Depths of Manaan.  But we were give a nice expansive area to roam but nothing to do, but going into a story instance, see a reputation vendor or medical droid and enter the flashpoint.  It looked like more was planned, but nothing happened… I will talk more about this later.

Alliances Forged

The final part of the Forged Alliances story arc was included and it again took us to a familiar world in Rakata Prime (The home world to the Rakata but not their true home world but when forging their Infinite Empire this force energy of the planet made this the best choice for the building of the Star Forges.  So we are then shown a familiar mask, at the end an a peek of what is to come, the return of Revan.  Legacy of the Rakata flashpoint a new PvP season nothing much else was included.

12 times XP

Yes, you could and many did, create new toons, complete the story only on those characters and they were at Level 50 and subsequently 55 before they could blink.  This saw a massive surge in the population of the game and was regarded as one of the more successful things they have done.  Even if people didn’t continue the influx into the game this bought was massive more than they anticipated and subsequently issues arouse from this with what was happening with the server.

3.0 Drops and the Ball is Dropped

Well, what can be said that hasn’t already.  The Shadow of Revan, Early Access was available, gave people new content, 2 new planets, dailies, 2 new flashpoints and operations and with the release of this they introduced a new mechanic of Solo flashpoints.  They did this to enable players who have not done the Forged Alliances story line to enjoy them before jumping into the new content.  This was a great addition, so much so that people are wanting to go back to use it for other flashpoints, but once you hit the level cap (60 now) you can go back and do all flashpoints, including the level 50 hard mode ones, solo (with some caveats).

Then the Ravager’s Exploit reared its reared its head, BioWare went underground or at least on holidays and those who would took full advantage of the situation.  192 and 198 gear for free, well almost free, though some servers is was common, others, no so, so much in fact that people transferred characters to servers, with lockouts and started selling it to players for credits.

This is what we are left with the stinking mess that is the community team at BioWare in their attempts to handle, fumble and deal with the situation and the subsequent fall out.  But this isn’t about the exploit or their handling of it it is merely how what was meant to be a great end to a year this happened.  But we are now in 2015 we can put the year behind.

Coming Soon

What is coming soon.  There was a community cantina, in which they revealed what was on the cards for 2015.  Two major releases a mid year and end of year. Talks of focus on story, providing a unique class story again but where the events make a difference to the outcomes of your story, an interesting take as ESO tried this and found people in groups when they choose different outcomes that had a baring on the instance they were in, they found the group members would spawn in different instances.  Not being able to help them at all.

There were elements I liked that carried over and made me feel that things were different in the stories.  I did like how the cross over of the stories were there in some instances small others significant.  But they are wanting to have more focus on that, they saw a massive influx of people into the game as a result of the Revan story so they must see this as a positive.  If they can make great stories for each of the classes I think they will find their population growing again.

No PvP Love

PvP is one of those things where many people love it, others hate it, but it was an area in this game and the story that lead it to be integrated better than with any other game in the past.  They did this in some degree with some of the warzones, but it gave a bite sized way to the game, they, I feel, improved it with 4v4 arenas which was a nice quick battle, Hutt Ball which I will talk more about soon and Galactic Starfighter space PvP.  Each of these need to be integrated greatly into the game and shown that PvP is just as important to the narrative as any other element.

Queues

Some servers are good, others not so.  So the only way to fix this would be cross server queues.  But this isn’t as saying, well let us implement cross server queues.  Here is why.

image

 

Here is a very crude map of the world with the locations of the data centres on it.  There are 3 servers on the West Coast of the US;

  • The Bastion
  • Begeren Colony
  • The Harbinger

5 servers on the East Coast of the US

  • The Shadowlands
  • Jung Ma
  • The Ebon Hawk
  • The Prophecy of the Five
  • Jedi Covenant

Europe has 9 servers, 3 in each languages

  • Tomb of Freedon Nadd
  • The Progenitor
  • The Red Eclipse
  • Darth Nihilus
  • Battle Meditation
  • Mantle of the Force
  • T3-M4
  • Jar’Kai Sword
  • Venjervalis Chain

So, players from all over the world played on these servers they often pick the server with the least network latency.  I played originally in Australia then was moved from there to Drooga’s Pleasure Barge and then finally to the Harbinger.  I play daily with a latency of about 170ms, which isn’t great but if it is stable I can deal with it.

Players in the Southern Hemisphere are the worst affected than most but I am sure that latency in other parts of the world with less stable connections are also an issue.  So, knowing there are people playing all over the world, we look at the cross server queuing. 

  1. Which server is picked to play the game one?
  2. How is the server picked?
  3. What mix of players from which servers are picked?

These are some of the questions regarding cross server queuing.  Some might suggest well, if 12 players from the 16 are from The Harbinger, why not play on the Harbinger.  Because the other 4 might come from countries like Eastern Europe where a connection to the US West Coast provide a 400ms latency and therefore making it uncompetitive against people who play with 40-70ms. 

Would a centralised server work?  Maybe if you could find a location that meant everyone could play with the exact same latency as everyone else, or with minimal changes to it. 

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That is the only physical way to make sure everyone has the same latency, but then we have cooling issues, pressure, physical maintenance,  the list goes on.

The final solution would be to use the server with the least population where the majority of players are from.  Then artificially increase latency for all players to match that of the slowest.  To perform this task would need a change to the clients.

Currently all commands travel to the server is actioned by the server and is returned to the client to display the animation or other displayable elements.  When playing with players in a group those with the highest latency have also delays in where players are as these actions, locations are then synchronised with the other clients in the group or match.

So anyone who believe they play with “LAG” should feel for the people who are geographically more distant from the servers whose “LAG” will not go away with the implementation of a server upgrade or the like.

So, in these scenarios, we use a client acknowledgement contract on data.  A command is sent to to the server and all c

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One client will send the command to all machines connected to that instance.  The computer above in Orange is “your” computer.  You are in a 4v4 arena match.  Every PC is sending the commands out too all others, including the server.  This server much acknowledge this command but it will not provide the appropriate actions until all clients have confirmed.

So, in this configuration the time it takes for the server to acknowledge the request is based on the slowest time to send a packet.  Now this person who is on the slowest link will still be at a disadvantage when the server says, yes.  If the slowest link is 400ms, this is a round trip, there for it is 200ms to the server.  The fastest is 40ms. So when the server sends the packets to the clients, this can send the data to the slowest first to the fastest.

The server will then wait a certain time before sending the request. to the others.  So, the slowest is sent first and the server knows it has received it in 200ms so, it should take about 200ms to send back.  It waits then 160ms before sending the packet to the fastest which is knows is 40ms.   Since this pertains only to actions, abilities, all locations can be updated through the client data packets being sent.

This create equality among the systems but creates an natural level of latency FORCED to uses.  Some might say this is nothing since there is a massive problem with lag.  But players who normally play 40ms complain about 100ms latency.  Forcing them will create an even further level of “unacceptable lag” as they call it to play a PvP match.  But the inqueality exists now, more so than those who complain know.

Downside to this method is;

  • Increased load on the local PCs network stack which, depending on the machine might already be under significant load and the network is possible the one area is often forgotten when it comes to increasing the speed of the PC.
  • The server code needs to be redesigned to not need to synchronise all of the data between clients and the initiator of the action will send the synchronisation data required.  Adding additional load to the client PC CPU.
  • Redesign to the client code to accept this data.  And since many of these components are linked in the way the application works it might be difficult to take this to the full advantage.
  • Rejected/Lost packets.  If the server is sending acknowledgement on packets to enable the client to perform the updates.  If one of these gets lost or needs to be requested again then we get into similar issues as would any normal multi-player scenario.

So given the complexities of implementing cross server queues where the latency issue would be a greater issue than normal.  Normal meaning if you play from Australia on The Harbinger then you will be used to playing with the latency you have change it to double or triple, and people will leave by the bucket loads.

Reduce East Coast

The East Coasts should be mereged into 3 servers like the rest of the English, French and German speaking world.  Since English EU, French EU and German EU as well as US West Coast have all three servers, what is the population numbers on the other East Coasts servers.  Complaints from this area about queue times would be reduced if they were on less servers and like much of the world who were reduced to a smaller number of “large population” servers then it is time the East Coast US was reduced to 3.

Win Trading

How do you deal with this.  Can you work who is trading wins?  Well from my understanding with comments like this;

…we can work towards finalizing our data review and assigning appropriate actions. We have a lot of information! We know who used it, who they invited, how many times they exploited, when they participated, credits gained, and whether they gained a crafting pattern from reverse-engineering.

means they should be able to get the metrics on it.  PvP is difficult enough let alone having groups artificially inflate the end of season figures.  So how can’t this be done.  It is a simple task of making sure that the teams (and you know the teams when the queues pop) get it so if they have played before in a certain period of time, pop it with someone else or another team they haven’t played.  My main issue here is a simple one, if they are all in on it or the majority of them are it then gets difficult to police.

This is the biggest thing outside of a lack of content the PvP crowd are wanting change in.  So addressing this will help alleviate many of the issues around the rankings.

Make it Integral

There have been suggestions regarding PvP and open world PvP.  Ilum was a complete debacle, their removal of it and moved to the PvP in the Gree Event made this much better but due to the instancing on planets to help with the performance, lead to some issues.  But that said, providing missions that were in the PvP area and could mean you were attacked by anyone at any time mean some tactics.  On a whole this work for my opinion.

So, including areas like this in the other locations in the galaxy.  Provide a familiar landscape but entering the area was Open slather PvP and having missions in there means unless people want to do it, attachment to the Conquest events which are often on a couple of planets I think you will have something as successful as the Gree event was and providing there was a decent incentive for those to venture in there, special decorations, mounts and the like means it will be good and makes the conquest feel that much more part of the battle at large.

Also provide any player from one guild get points for taking down someone from another guild but anyone who has been taken out, is detrimental, some amount of points come off.  Could win/trading be a part of it if guilds with Republic and Imperial versions could do it.  So getting the balance right is important.  But if you make it only minor but the number of kills for each missions as bonuses etc… can add. 

What about the Guild Flagship Raiding?  Something I have been thinking of for some time is, guilds have flagships now, we can now move them from planet to planet which then give us boosts for conquest events.  Provide Guild PvP raiding of other populated flagships.  This can make the conquests more person, provide the raiding only on a specific day, to enable the guilds to prepare.  Enable flagship decorations to be defences that can help your guild from being raided.  The issue with this is alerting guild members their flagship is being raided by another guild.

Outpost Attacks

One of the things I liked with World of Warcraft is, when the opposite faction raids an outpost.  Messages would appear telling players this was happening.  This it is up to the player to determine if they wish to join in.  Link this to the Fleet and have those sitting around on fleet, hear an audible announcement that players are attacking the Organa Palace all able members to respond.  Make them sound like the warnings at the time of the Rakghoul events.  It is a buzzer, it audible and then people can jump into their ships on mass to attack the raiders, or repel them. 

This is how it would work;

  1. An imperial invasion force would attack a settlement on a planet.  These are the “PvP” zones, areas where you are flagged to attack anything within them.
  2. An announcement is then broadcast in general chat on the planet.  Then an audible broadcast is sent out on the fleet.  “Attention.  Imperial forces have attacked “Castle Organa”.  We require all available, to proceed to “Alderann” to repel the invaders.
  3. Players can then take their starships or guilds can pilot their flagships into position above the planet.
  4. They can then travel to the location that is being attacked.
  5. Any player that is a member of a guild partaking in the attack and they have their flagship above the planet, they would receive some boost similar to the healing of that done by the GSI satellite on Makeb.
  6. Any guild flagship can also deploy a temporary medical station where players of that faction can respawn when they are felled in battle.  (This is crucial as the attacking side is put out by the distances they must travel to get back into the fray.  But put some caveats around it in that it can’t be within the enemy zone and can’t be within attacking distance of enemy NPCs.
  7. If this planet is one of the conquest planets anyone participating in this action would also get bonus points for the conquest objectives.
  8. Low level players against high level players, the greater the level gap between the players killing another the less bonus points.  So this means it is more beneficial to attack players of similar level.
  9. Provide special mission items that can be retrieved from special locations that enable the deployment of manned turrets similar to those used in Kaon Under Siege or Collicoid War.  Low level players can then man the turrets, they are provided some level of additional defence while manning the turret They do the damage based on the player they are attacking.  level 60 higher damage than a level.
  10. What is the end, in each outpost there is a high level NPC that needs to be killed.  They are similar to many of the champions in that region of the PvP and once defeated then the battle ends, all players partaking will receive extra rewards, achievements, etc…
    1. The objective at the end can be healed and guarded, they do not put out much damage (but this might not always be the case) but they are reliant on the defenders to protect them.
    2. These end objectives must be difficult to get to and difficult to kill. 

There would be a question on what about, going in what about a bunch of stealth characters sneaking in to take the objective, not entirely possible.  It would be any NPC close to the objective would have advanced stealth detecting abilities.  They could sneak into part of the way but they couldn’t.

What about mid fight, stealth out and advance, that could be done much like it is in normal PvP.  But this is greatly hindered. 

What about instances where there is low populations.  Switching instances after a player stealths out.  All players who begin an attack receive a special debuff this debuff only cools down when a player is not in battle.  This debuff prevents players from switching instances or using quick travel,  iIt is 5 minutes.  Players defending do not receive this debuff.  If attacking players decide to all stealth out, hide for 5 minutes for the time to wait for the debuff then Quick Travel or Change instances they might be seen by NPCs or enemy players.

Then the defending team could switch instances to determine what the happenings, if there are no additional instances, then this is not an issue but the debuff will still be present while in enemy territory.  

Bring the PvP into the game’s greater conflict would help immerse players greater into the galaxy of SWTOR.

Hutt Ball

This is an area which can be a major problem for some people.  There are those who like it, others who hate it.  Me I am neither.  But something I have always felt is Hutt Ball should be a competition on its own.

There is a couple of ways to do this.  Follow the seasons for the normal PvP, which is 8 weeks.  So, in 8 weeks, you are to have all teams face off in a best of 3 elimination.   Then it culminates into a final with a best of 5 can play for the title of Hutt Ball champion.

The systems are in place to record results from games and the games are held at certain times of the day and this is to make sure you get through the number of games.  Is it possible.  I am sure it is as many of the mechanics are in place in the back end there would be a need for some tweaking.

But then enable players to enter and watch the matches going on.  The games going on are in separate instances so this is achievable, enable a selection of which game to watch.   I could even go as far as provide a simple betting system as well.  Get players more involved in it, make it a proper competition and bet on the winner.  I know this could open up all sorts of issues but even if you don’t allow it.  I think it would add to a more immersive galaxy. 

Sabacc and Pazaak

Something called by the community since launch.  BioWare placed a wonderfully addictive game in Knights of the Old Republic called Pazzak.  People have called for this to be included into the game in some form.  There is even a Sabacc table on the Esseless, you can interact with the table but it says, it isn’t taking players at this time..

One on One games, player v player.  Finding cards throughout the galaxy and also from drops from major bosses.  Another PvP experience and one that is not like other games.  I say work it out.

Finally

These are just some of my suggestions for bring PvP into the fore.  We know that BioWare can delivery story, we know they have the mechanics in the game to deliver it but I believe there is one thing that the crowd, all, want more than anything else.  A performance upgrade, moving to DirectX 10, 64 bit clients, or at least making the game perform consistent across the board and not be impacted like it is dependant on the goings on in the world.  When I hit ATL + Z and I get a 10-15 fps boost in performance there is a massive issue.  We want updates but I believe BioWare would by some leverage if they came out and said, guys, we are working on Migrating to (an example) Frostbite 3, we will be releasing a version on the PTS come June.  We will not release anything else until this is done. I feel everyone will sit back and say “finally”. 

But the state of the game is open for debate.  We are getting story, more story and some additional minor quality of life issues.  The state of the game as of this day is healthy and it is growing by the day.  But they need to get their arses into gear and look at what is hurting the game the most.  It isn’t the current content out there, it is the performance, the bugs the little things.  Once you have a stable, well performing platform then what you can release the sky is the limits at the moment, the limits are very much imposed on by the very dated and dogged Hero Engine they have used, butchered and hacked to pieces to get it to work.  It performs well, but it is prevalent that the more they add to this engine, the more issues that come from it. 

The Cartel Market gets the most love, new packs new items, items on sale.  The one that gets the least love is performance.  Yes this is lower than PvP but PvP is not far from it.  Is what they have restricting their growth, time will tell.  But for many in the community, time is not a luxury.  They will leave if things don’t improve.

WoW, just Wow

world-of-warcraft-iconWhat do I mean by that?  I will include a qualifier.  If we do not already live in a very much self obsessed naval gazing world in which one of the often quipped lines is “What is in it for ME”, the emphasis on the me.  In a time where we are becoming even more concerned with technology and what it could potentially do when taking a photo of my junk for Instagram or tinder.  And now, I read this.  Nothing too much about this other than a couple of items. 

So.  World of Warcraft prides itself on its expansive lore, massive stage, intricate levels for raids and an ever increasing number things that they aren’t boasting too much about, deaths from people playing extended periods without food or water, the proliferation of gold sellers and slave trade, oft in countries without strict laws around labour and even increasing number of addictive elements which means you keep throwing your $15 a month for the game boasting about 10 million players and they would never go free to play, even if releasing a WOW2, which they won’t, but I can explain that later.

So, how does this fit into the scheme of things.  World of Warcraft was bleeding genuine subscribers, as in people who play the game to advance and enjoy it.  These are not people who collect gold, sell gold or any.  I am sure these number in the millions, but Blizzard would never ever release those figures.  They released Mists of Pandaria to much derision among the gaming community and even those faithful to the lore.  Pandas was a word Echoed when the first trailer for the expansion emerged.  Then Pet battles a form of in game Pokémon for those who were not already addicted and ones with the OCD of must collect everything just had another area to go into, not to mention, many pets on offer, were to buy, not earned in game.

Warlords of Draenor have removed much of the crap that stuck on from the Panda release and has restored Blizzard to the top of the world.  Then is, Twitter, post information in twitter, linking items earned etc…  OK.  So all of this is now within the game client, so once, if someone desired that used an external device to communicate their achievements on Twitter meaning they had to leave the game client to do so, now don’t worry, we have you covered there.  So fear not to be attacked by an NPC of even another player if you are flagged for PvP, you can keep your eye on the game and send that important tweet.  OK.

Then this, S.E.L.F.I.E. camera.  Once upon a time I could position the camera in game, to look at my face and press Print Screen.  Then we find this was too much effort for some and that is why they didn’t use it.  Then they included this.  FOr those who feel that a physical “selfie” is perhaps not what the world wants simply because your physical persona might be more akin to…

20080625-pkqd22y7wtrefbu2nycwcputuy-preview

Than…

blood-elf

So why not.  I am not entirely sure about this, certainly there are many who will use this.  But who are they aiming to use this.  Are they playing World of Warcraft or is this really a feature that the community at large ash flooded the forums in WOW to voice their concerns that they want a “selfie” of their digital beings in game and make it look like a proper “selfie”.  And also with the ability of offering lens to change the affect of what the character looks like.

I do jump into World of Warcraft occasionally, nothing to do other than just explore the new content, but this has been greatly reduced since Pandas and I was tempted to get the new expansion but then to see this coming in a patch.  Mmm, I am thinking I will stick to my SWTOR for now.

Addendum: World of Warcraft 2

This is purely my opinion and chances are I am wrong, oft I am when voicing my opinions public.  It is sure one way to assure that something the opposite what I said happens.  Anyway.  There has been speculation over the fate of World of Warcraft, this was prior to the release of the latest expansion pack, Warlords of Draenor ands it increase in subscribers.

Any MMO out there would love the subscribers of World of Warcraft, even half that.  I will not get into the numbers they report versus the actual numbers.  But, WoW was a game that one might not say redefined a genre since MMOs existed before that and were much the same but they popularised it and in some manner have turned this genre around where so many companies are wanting to have an MMO in order to have the massive success that Blizzard has had with World of Warcraft.

There has been a few updates of late that had spelled the direction of the game and what they are planning on doing with it.  Cataclysm was a time I very much waned from the WoW universe because of the massive changes they made to the game world.  Sure Deathwing strode, well more like flew in, carving the land asunder.  This moment in the lore was the perfect time to update the engine (the VERY OUTDATED ENGINE) running WoW to use DirectX 11.  They did this quietly in patch 4.1, the game will perform better on Windows 7 machines or newer because of the changes to the WDM /WDDM drivers for the cards that use the different versions of DirectX (a problem prevalent in SWTOR and certainly feature in a large number of my posts).

This change, is a massive change.  To update the underlying engine to us the DirectX 9 rendering pipeline or the DirectX 10/11 is no mean feat.  Blizzard have the cash but their reasoning behind it was not due to any need to.  Windows XP support ended 2014, therefore the release date of 2011 was hardly to mitigate the this end of life for XP.  Since you can still use the DirectX 9 engine with the selection or unselecting of the checkbox in the options.

It was done to ensure longevity of the game.  With DirectX 12 coming in Windows 10, 2015, this meant that using DirectX 11 meant the game was still going to run on newer and newer version of the operating system (I know it runs on Mac but that doesn’t use DirectX).  It was also not long after the DirectX changes came the changes to use 64bit code.  So, we have a change to DirectX 11 and a change to the client (which you can select either 64bit or 32bit clients) which enables a greater use of memory if available.

We also now have the release of updated player models. 

original

As you can see in the image, the changes are drastic.  This isn’t just a change to the models this also pertains to the expressions on their faces for emotes and the like.  If there was any chance that World of Warcraft 2 was coming even in the next couple of years their changes to all of these elements was not really required.  From a business perspective, you don’t pay for an outlay unless there is a return on that outlay.

One might say that this could also be a test bed, releasing all of these changes to the engine and the game will serve to provide a stable footing for World of Warcraft 2.  But to release a new user pays MMO in a market where unless you force the addicted players of World of Warcraft to shift they won’t go anywhere and if the game is the same why change at all.

I believe we will have another 5 or more years of World of Warcraft, but as now I have said there won’t be, chances are we will see it from Blizzard this coming E3.

Absolutely Nothing

WritingWell I can say my mind has done it again.  In the vain hopes of trying to explain the reason and rationale of my mind in the coming off of anti-depressants, it seems that I had planned, or at least thought of a direction to which it might go, within a moment between getting my coffee, reading about the what goes through our ever increasingly inept Prime Minister (and be very thankful that I don’t start posting blogs regarding politics as the current state of it within Australia has very much made my goat, get up and walk away in absolute disgusts as just so much as gotten on him in recent times.), the thought has gone and right now, as I type this my mind is a blank.

It is true, for that moment if anyone were to ask what I am thinking, I can say “nothing” and really mean it, as even those who might think I am thinking enough to get the words from my head onto the the screen I would say even this is struggle as you do not get to see the copious amount of backspace abuse taken to this keyboard.

It is even making writing this tremendously difficult and therefore while I sit here at work writing what code I can (which I can say is one of the more difficult tasks to undertake when your mind is failing to do one of its jobs).  I am going to have to end this here, I know it is a very short post but it is not for wanting to type more but it is failing to produce, which from someone who’s product has always spoken louder than my will to do so, creates an unnerving sense of failure (which in some of my current thought processes isn’t hard to do.)

Then There is Nothing

PowerIcon

Now like a blot from the blue, ideas and words, pictures, scenes shots and stars all came into my head, mixed around and come out in the semblance of an idea for a feature film.  Often this was the case and as in the case in the past was, I could direct my thoughts, postulate on the goings on and happenings of the world I am creating.  Then as quickly as many of these things flooded in, gone. 

I woke yesterday to find the previous night there were no dream, no images, any hope of grabbing and idea and riding it within my mind just slipped out of grasp or failed to reach it.  It went as quickly as as they had previously came and was like a light switch (not like ones in my house however they seem to stay on, forever),

But hope was not lost, this morning though the images of the past have returned and are in a foggy and faded distances I can see them at the least.  Is this a cause from the medication as now it has been two months and I still feel the withdrawals from it, the spinning head failure for refresh the losing my way in thought or even failing to know which day of the week it is.  But a quick look at my watch confirmed it was Monday, though on the Monday it was fine.  It was on the Tuesday when things in terms of ideas dried up and cause some worry.

One of the things that has come from the time, albeit brief, when I was on a roll coming up with the ideas was I wanted to direct this into a film.  As during the time I was making my short films I would see scenes on the street of what I was writing, I could see how it would look from moving the camera (a virtual one) and then still get a good shot. 

I will be the first to put up my hand and say my short films we not great.  They were not meant to be great.  They were meant to be exercises in shooting a film.  My first we simple my second included some more moving camera, others included mixture shots by shooting the scene from multiple angles with the actors at different times, my last included some green screen and compositing, not great, but it was a learning part which I needed.  After that my next was to learn the long form.

So there is much I need to learn in the process of filmmaking but at the same time I need to also learn more about me, my mind and how I can adapt to the situation when I am hip deep in making a film and I find my brain has switched off and will not come back for a few days.  I can’t just shut up shop, but at the same time I can’t try and plough though hoping that everything is OK.

It might mean I need to document things a little more, make sure I have everything written, drawn pre-vizzed and typed out.  As pouring all my thoughts onto the page, into an image, into a photo will not only make my transition from a blank mind back into the fray much more seamless but also if there is someone who I can trust to take my vision into reality and use the assets created will make it much easier.  There are two people that I believe I can count on in my creative endeavours if the my mind decided to just come up with as much as a government policy convention, I can sit with them and know that these two will remain faithful to the vision.

new-25-1

A very poor attempt at a storyboard.

Web Applications not Always the Best

WritingAs I am getting my creative world back on track I have needed to revisit all of my old files.  This is OK, except they are in a couple of formats, Final Draft (which I have a physical copy of on CD) and the other is in Celtx.  Celtx was an open source application (which I will go on more about later) that enable not only screenwriting but provide initially basic pre-production tools to which I could breakdown a script, budget, schedule, etc.… with relative ease.  It wasn’t the prettiest but often when it comes to Open Source they are rarely are.

They offered a decent cloud based solution that enabled you to save your files onto the servers on the web and save multiple versions as well.  Each save prompted you with a comment dialog and then you could save it online for access by another user.  The subscription for accessing this service was reasonable I believe it was $49.90 a year.

Now.  Between the last time I renewed the subscription to know something has changed.  Firstly, they do not offer a version of their desktop application for Windows.  They make no apologies about it they provide one that is for Mac only.  OK.  This leaves me in a little bit of a bind as both myself and my friend had many scripts on this server with multiple version on there and all kinds of notes which we like as we often brain storm in this manner.

I have gone onto their site and they provide NO help on this.  “We do not provide a version for Windows.”  they say, “Download the legacy desktop application to connect to the legacy studio to be able to save your old projects to your computer”  um, didn’t I just read there is no legacy desktop application for Windows.

So, if you run a Windows PC and have many of your scripts on the Legacy site then chances are you are fairly screwed and the support people don’t seem to want a bar from you

So.  I dug around the traps and found Celtx on a site that is NOT Celtx.  This version was the last version I have used.

CNet, this is where I got the version I tried.  Download it and install it.

Next go to https://studio.celtx.com – and log in.  The reset password functionality does work so if you forgot your password.

Once logged in, you can do a couple of things.

Celtx and Signing in

Celtx has a Studio which is the web site allows you to view and administer the users of the system and the desktop application which is where most of the work is done.

imageWhen you open Celtx and this is the first time you will need to log in.  Make sure you select Legacy Studio as the location.  Enter the username and password you sued to log into the Celtx site.

Click OK and this should sign you in, at the time of writing this it did.  Once signed in, if you select Sign in on Startup it means you don’t need to worry about selecting it when opening up from the web.

Latest Version

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Click the Projects icon.  This will bring up the Projects window.  Click each icon in there will show information on the last time it was updated, if you are sharing this project, who the owner is and the number of version available.  I will explain about the versions below but at the moment I will show how to get the latest version.

Click the Project

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Click Edit.  This will open the newly installed desktop application.  You can choose to edit it if you like from within the Celtx application or save it, but don’t hit the save button as this will try (and I am unsure if this works) and save back to the cloud service. 

If you haven’t logged the Celtx application into the service then you will need to open sign in with that.  

Once in Celtx, Click File | Save Project As (Ctrl + Shift + S)  This will open a save dialog and will enable you to save the file anywhere on your local PC or network shares if available.

This will give you the latest version only.  But if that is all you want then you are good to go.  But if you want to save all the versions of your script then this process is similar but will take considerably longer.

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All Version

I wish there was an easy way to do this but there isn’t.  It isn’t elegant either and once saved I am unable to provide advice on how you should manage all the version other than just files on a file system.

Instead of click Project you want to click Archives instead.  This will show you all of your projects as folders.

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So, in there if you double click the folder another “window” will open and show you the versions of the application you have.

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Like opening the latest version it is simple once here.  But Select the version you want to open.  In the case above 1, through 4.  Then click Open Selected Version. 

You then see Celtx open locally and it will download the contents to your computer.  From there, you save the file locally like before Clicking File | Save Project As (Ctrl + Shift + S), browse to the location you wish to save the file.

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I type the version number 01 – [Name of Project], click save.  Make sure you put a zero at the front to enable proper sorting of the versions.  If you have more than 100 then use 001 or more than 1000 then use 0001 and so on.  This will ensure that numbers are sorted correctly when compared to the Alphabet.

Once this is done, close Celtx, go back to the studio site, click the next version and Click Open Selected Version and repeat the process until all versions are complete.  I am sorry if you have many versions my greatest was 72 thus far, but if you have more, you have my sympathies.

PDF Services

This is a note.  Celtx offers the ability to print and save your document in the right format, one the script document there is a tab called Typeset/PDF.  Click it and you will find it takes sometime before it produces the output needed.  From there you can then save as a PDF file.

There is nothing wrong with this, it works, but for how long, is it a method they implement on their servers or is it a 3rd Party that is offering the solution that they are merely calling the web API to do the hard yards.

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Not to mention you get this nice little ad popping up spruiking their current offering and their need to get an account.  15 days free trial.

What Next

I can’t tell you what to do next.  You now have a folder that has many different version of files or many files.  You could go with the solution for Celtx Online Studio, to write scripts is a free service but the desktop application they provided previously allowed;

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Yes, all of those items.  But now, their free service is just screenwriting.  Their next version at $10 a month offers all the same as the original desktop application, which you have just installed to get the files off their legacy studio.

So this is where I am very disappointed.  Celtx was an OK product, it wasn’t the best screenwriting application, it wasn’t the best scheduling application and so on.  But it was by far greater than the mere sum of its parts as it offered a centralised solution for your pre-production services. 

imageSo if you have an extensive collteciton of Celtx files then I would say that you should maintain using Celtx.  Convesion from the old style to the new one has the ability to upload files into the new account.  Log into the Celtx Studio and at the top left there is an upload Icon.

Click the upload icon you are given a fly out dialog, you can drag a heap of files in there or Click Browse your Computer and you will be presented with a traditional file dialog. 

You will then see the application will upload the document, once complete click the Close button and you will then see the file name of the file you uploaded in

imageyour file list. Expand it and you will be presented with all scripts that were in the file.  All of them and nothing else.  So if you had breakdowns and other documents in there including overviews, treatments and so on they will not exists in the new folder.  Not one of them is carried over.

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It looks very much like the previous Celtx desktop, a little slicker but all in all it is much the same.  So, if you have just scripts by all means use the online version, it is free.  BUT.  You have also lost all version tracking which the previous studio version supported (if you had the legacy studio and you had your script online, if you click save it would then save the file as a new version (that included everything in the file) with comments.  Now, no.

As for the Standard version which includes all of the things you got for free that you now have to pay for, the transition to this would be based on your own needs and financial state.  My opinion is, to now pay MORE for a service that has less feature than a product that was free.  To its credit it does have some benefits, but using a service like One Drive or Drop Box makes this feature seem fairly unimpressive.

I will just provide some details on what the service offers in the new world to what wasn’t in the old.

Scratchpads

This was a great way to just throw down ideas quickly and easily and get access to then later without the need of creating a new document.  They have implemented a notes feature in their online version, which the original desktop version had. 

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But the scratch pad is gone.

Index cards

A feature just part of the script, it creates a new index card per scene.  Now, this is a feature you pay for and is only part of the standard subscription.  I used to like using the index cards, as I used them physically stuck to the walls of my room.

Find and Replace

Wow, this was something we have had in our software since Windows 3.1 (possibly in DOS days too) to have a new fancy script editing application and to then say, we don’t have this feature, sorry, but if you up vote it then we might include it.

Versions

They did include this one, thankfully.  Slightly different but I think implemented better.

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It shows all of the versions, which one is the latest and which is the working copy (the latest and you have the option restore (only if you upgrade to the Subscribe to the standard subscription model).  I included it as it is something that SHOULD be included in free version.

Celtx went from being a solution that met the needs of people wanting a complete solution for everything rather than expensive software for something they will only use a small portion of.  It is now even less for more money if you go one of the subscriptions now than the cost of the previous legacy studio subscription.

Why did they feel this was the best use of their time when migrating to a web application solution.  I am very disappointed in the direction they took and in reality I would rather use Sophocles an equally unsupported software than has many of the same functions of Celtx in the desktop but there are some additions and some missing options.  Sophocles is difficult to find at the best of times and I might provide a link through if there is requests for it. 

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But it enables scheduling, step outlines, budgeting, full revision support.  It is a beta software released ages ago but the developer has since disappeared from the face of the earth and with many people who have speculated as to what happened no one can say.  But, his quality software does live on.

Why the Hatred?

swtor-logo-256x2561OK, this is a strange post.  Many who might read my writings would see that I play SWTOR, many would also see that I write that at the top of posts that are a little bit of a social commentary about something in game.  Recently in the game there was a bug that enabled players to receive free rewards without the need of completing the content.

Operations are large scale battles between a boss and a number of people with a goal to take down the boss.  Each operation has 4 or 5 bosses and any number of mini bosses.  At the end of the fight you receive reward in the form of Credits, Commendations and a random dice roll on allocation on new gear and crafting materials.

I have done many operations, many bosses over my time in the game.  You can only do one operation boss once per week.  With 8 or 16 people partaking in the madness the chances of getting something of worth from these operations is low.  Below is a video of me in a boss fight just to show you what can go on.

Dreadtooth on Nightmare difficulty. (24 person)

So an 8 man fight gives the change of getting 1 piece of gear, so that is a 1 in 8 chance.  Some might say that is OK.  Then there is a Need/Greed system in which those who need are give precedence over those who greed, but there are some who take no heed and just need on everything.

Over the time of me completing operations I have rarely received gear for it, bits and pieces here and there and the way I have had to gear up my characters has been with commendations which isn’t as good as earning it in operations.

So that is the prologue to all of this.  This exploit enable people to get the gear from the last boss without needing to do the boss, people thought it was a win, win.  They received the gear alone, no need with the competition.  You could only do this once per week.  This post isn’t about the bug that enabled people to exploit the mechanic of the game it isn’t about the people who used the exploit, it is about those who want nothing but extreme prejudice taken against those who exploited.

Here is some quotes from players who are reacting to the information regarding the response to the exploit;

  • i hope they do perma ban you, people like you are the problem with this game.
  • All I see up there is “It’s Bioware’s fault I exploited.” If you get banned, good riddance.
  • Ban them, ban them all.
  • Cheating has become a national pastime, it seems, and morals are so relaxed nobody can see the line anymore. Makes me sick.

Also there is 1730 replies to this post in the forums.  Many people have many views but I am wanting to know why is there so much hate.  There are large grey areas when it comes to using bugs to gain advantage, many people will and do argue this very topic and to many some might find the temptation just too great. 

So, firstly I can say those who are crying for blood to be spilled or;

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Them to be burned , why?  Is it because of the advantage they gained, or is it a because I didn’t get it no one should therefore those who did should be banned.

Many who stand the moral high ground in this issue say, it is a choice, you chose not to, I chose to do it, I therefore am more pious than thou and therefore I should bring down the wrath.

This situation reminds me very much of the drugs in sport.  Professional athletes using any methods, legal and not legal to get the most from their bodies to excel in their chosen field.  Those who stand the moral high ground are once again saying if I don’t need to do it, therefore you don’t.  But we have, throughout our lives been subjected to choices some innocuous others not so, some have no consequence other have tremendous consequences or worse.

“This is a video game”  I hear, but people take various aspects of their lives very different do the screaming fans of a sporting club any different to those who push themselves to run personal marathons on a weekly basis even if they do not partake in them.Collingwood_Fans_Port_Adelaide_Finals_628

What I find in these cases is how many of those calling for blood on those who exploited the game, that a game is fun and cheating isn’t fun must fail to see the irony of being all serious of a matter that is, in the grand scheme of things very trivial.

Was it wrong?  Yes.  Should they have done it?  No.  They did, the developers know who did and who gained from it.  But the developers, when or if they hand out the punishment will not make any comment on it other than “we have decided the fate of those who we deemed, gained the greatest advantage from enacting on this exploit.”  They will not say, we have banned them for x days, week or permanently, nope and I am sure that the pitch forks won’t go away until they are satisfied that those who did wrong have suffered.

If they find it was a temp ban it will never be long enough and they will redirect the pitch forks in the direction of BioWare and EA for failing them.  These people will never be happy until their idea of sufficient punishment has been served and then, what next…  Will there be another they can point their rage at, someone else to go after someone who might be more innocent and less deserving of the ire of the mob.

There is a saying, “to err is human” which says, we all make mistakes and I am sure anyone who has been caught speeding will complain that they were only going just over a little or it was unfair.  I know I have been targeted by the unfair machinations of the public revenue machine that is speed camera offences. But each time, I pay my fine, cope the demerit points and carry on my life, just as well we don’t have those righteous coming out over those who speed should be locked up for life in gaol.  Thankfully.

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