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Tales of the classic PBM games here at PBM.net have sparked my curiosity about the tools today's game author's are using. I've been a free software advocate and user for years. I've run Linux desktops for about a decade. There are so many free languages, databases, frameworks, and yes, the occasional game engine. ESMS is written in C and C++, but Eli had started on a version written in ruby before he handed the reigns to me. I've used a fair bit of perl in maintaining a league. I've also used free wiki software (tikiwiki) to maintain my very neglected website.
Last night I spent an hour or so cruising around Sourceforge looking for PBEM tools, and while there were many false starts with no code, there are several viable PBEM projects.

So, what's in your toolbox and why?

Dave
Well the current reincarnation of Far Horizons is using the 24,000+ lines of ANSI C code circa 1995. However, that code is only used for actual game processing.

I've written about 1000 lines in python tools to handle game signups, orders fetching+verification from email, sending reminders and turn reports, not to mention some wrappers around the C binaries to simplify turn processing.
Currently I'm working on a python library to read the binary format of the FH game files.

OS wise, I've been using a linux desktop for many years too and do all my development on it.

I've searched for PBEM tools as well, particularly a PBEM agnostic library to handle email related functions, with no luck. I'm considering making on myself.
I'm a Microsoftie. (Was one of the original betaguys on .NET, got involved with MSFT New England, and never looked back.) I use Visual Studio Professional, running VB (I prefer VB to C# because being more verbose, it's easier to maintain), and augmented with a lot of JQuery. The datastore is, however mySQL, not MSSQL.

Two programs that I use almost as much as Visual Studio and mySQL are Paint.NET a freebie graphics program that rivals the guys that charge many hundreds, and Poser, a 3D modeling program. There's a compatible to Poser (which isn't free) called DAZ3d which is free, even for commercial use

One of the things folks might consider if they get serious about programming is that MSFT has a startup program that provides access to an awful lot of high-powered software, almost for free. Go to http://www.microsoft.com/web/websitespark and check out "Getting Started." They'll give you the software priced in the tens of thousands and, after three years, they want you to pay 'em $100. If you aren't ready to handle the major stuff, Microsoft's express versions of all their major development tools are probably worth a look. Of course, you have to be running Windows and not think that Redmond is a bigger threat to the U.S. than Iran. Wink
I use visual studio .net at work -- using C#. I had considered using it for this, but I probably should not pirate my work software for personal use. Visual Studio professional is quite expensive, and I'm not sure the "express" version is up to the task.

On the other hand, there are free development platforms for Java, which I thought could be a good tool for browser AND mobile development. Or if I just wanted to stick with a server-side tool to handle data storage, processing, and turn output, I could do what the Empyrean Challenge guys are doing and just use Access.

Or I could go with LAMP (linux, apache, mySQL, Perl).

Someone posted something about there being some potential PBEM platforms under development on SourceForge, so maybe it's worth a look to see if I could join one of those efforts...
(03-26-2011, 07:17 PM)ixnay Wrote: [ -> ]I use visual studio .net at work -- using C#. I had considered using it for this, but I probably should not pirate my work software for personal use. Visual Studio professional is quite expensive, and I'm not sure the "express" version is up to the task.

On the other hand, there are free development platforms for Java, which I thought could be a good tool for browser AND mobile development. Or if I just wanted to stick with a server-side tool to handle data storage, processing, and turn output, I could do what the Empyrean Challenge guys are doing and just use Access.

Or I could go with LAMP (linux, apache, mySQL, Perl).

Someone posted something about there being some potential PBEM platforms under development on SourceForge, so maybe it's worth a look to see if I could join one of those efforts...

Something to consider when developing a web app/service is not the cost of development, but also the cost of maintaining the service after deployment.

Hosting (and scaling) a LAMP stack is much cheaper than hosting and scaling a MSFT .NET stack.

BTW, the P in LAMP can be any number of things: Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, etc.
If you're really set to go the MSFT route, and you have access to a .edu email address (as a student, alumni, or faculty) then you can get tons of software on MMs' kid-themed website https://www.dreamspark.com (seriously, what's with the yellow and blue spaceman with pink rainbows?!)

For my personal project (Far Horizons) I'm not sold on the web based GUI yet, and am still leaning towards a cross platform downloadable client.

For one thing, I feel like gamers take the installable game more seriously than they do the web game. Though I am definitely biased as I develop cross platform desktop software for my job. Going the web route would give me the chance to play with some exciting new technologies like WebGL, Canvas, and other HTML5 goodies.
(03-27-2011, 02:03 PM)Ramblurr Wrote: [ -> ]For my personal project (Far Horizons) I'm not sold on the web based GUI yet, and am still leaning towards a cross platform downloadable client.

For one thing, I feel like gamers take the installable game more seriously than they do the web game. Though I am definitely biased as I develop cross platform desktop software for my job. Going the web route would give me the chance to play with some exciting new technologies like WebGL, Canvas, and other HTML5 goodies.

(03-27-2011, 03:06 PM)aloysius Wrote: [ -> ]I can't argue with feelings. To counter, I feel putting it on the web is the easiest and fastest way to get it out there to the people who want to play it. I'm going with a browser-based interface to begin with, but have plans to develop native desktop and tablet/phone clients in the (more distant) future, using web services to connect to the same games that the browsers do.

Just to chime in on the subject from my non-programmer perspective, I have been online many years, now, and there's not a single, solitary browser-based game that has caused me to be addicted to it, yet.

Every now and then, I take time out to give a newly discovered browser-based game a try. I invariably walk away, disappointed.

I am playing in Ramblurr's Far Horizons: The Awakening, right now. Being able to send and receive my turn orders and turn results via e-mail is an enormously attractive feature to me. It's still early in the game, right now, and of all aspects of the game that I have yet encountered, the sending and receiving of turn orders and turn results via e-mail is the single most attractive feature of the game for me, to date.
(03-27-2011, 02:03 PM)Ramblurr Wrote: [ -> ]For my personal project (Far Horizons) I'm not sold on the web based GUI yet, and am still leaning towards a cross platform downloadable client.

For one thing, I feel like gamers take the installable game more seriously than they do the web game. Though I am definitely biased as I develop cross platform desktop software for my job. Going the web route would give me the chance to play with some exciting new technologies like WebGL, Canvas, and other HTML5 goodies.

One advantage a browser-based client would give you is ease of updating. Forcing the player to dl every build can get old, real fast. On the other hand, being able to offload some of the data-store can be a blessing.

Have you played with jQuery much? It adds a great deal to the front end and combined with AJAX (which it supports natively for quick and dirty trips to the server) makes for a very smooth transition.

I think players respect applications running in a browser that look like they are part of the 21st century, but tend to think less of those that are static HTML with full screen refreshes every time a tiny piece of the display is updated. Unfortunately a lot of PBeMs have websites that look very 90's. Take a look at Rolling Thunder.
(03-27-2011, 03:58 PM)JonO Wrote: [ -> ]One advantage a browser-based client would give you is ease of updating. Forcing the player to dl every build can get old, real fast. On the other hand, being able to offload some of the data-store can be a blessing.
Indeed, this is a headache. Though, I thought it would be fun to implement a binary patching system akin to the way Google pushes chrome updates. When the users open the app, it phones home to check for an update, then automatically updates itself with a binary patch. This would be a fun challenge to implement, but probably overkill for a simple game client.

(03-27-2011, 03:58 PM)JonO Wrote: [ -> ]Have you played with jQuery much? It adds a great deal to the front end and combined with AJAX (which it supports natively for quick and dirty trips to the server) makes for a very smooth transition.
Yes. JQuery and similar toolkits (Dojo) are fantastic. If I was to create a webapp it would definitely make full use of AJAX give it a native app feel.

(03-27-2011, 03:58 PM)JonO Wrote: [ -> ]I think players respect applications running in a browser that look like they are part of the 21st century, but tend to think less of those that are static HTML with full screen refreshes every time a tiny piece of the display is updated. Unfortunately a lot of PBeMs have websites that look very 90's. Take a look at Rolling Thunder.

I absolutely agree. I've ranted about this elsewhere on these forums. Most PBEM sites made a website in the late 90s when the web as new and never bothered to update it. FBI is another major culprit.


(03-27-2011, 03:24 PM)GrimFinger Wrote: [ -> ]I am playing in Ramblurr's Far Horizons: The Awakening, right now. Being able to send and receive my turn orders and turn results via e-mail is an enormously attractive feature to me. It's still early in the game, right now, and of all aspects of the game that I have yet encountered, the sending and receiving of turn orders and turn results via e-mail is the single most attractive feature of the game for me, to date.

Don't worry, this won't be going away. I don't plan to discard the email/orders interface, but build a graphical interface on top of the orders interface (whether that interface will be a downloadable app or webapp is TBD). But, I will definitely keep supporting email+orders.

With the price of postage going up and up (I am such an old fart that I remember when (for years on end) the price of a first class stamp was $.03) eMail becomes a necessity as well as a convenience, doesn't it?

Oh yeah, and back then, mail was delivered twice a day, except they goofed off and only delivered once on Saturday.

Has anyone considered using Flash as a front-end for a play-by-web game? I just found a book describing how to build "virtual online worlds" in Flash - multiplayer and everything...
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